After the worst season of his career, Gary Sanchez said he wants to be the Yankees’ starting catcher and that he wasn’t given an explanation by the team for why he was benched during the playoffs.
In an ESPN interview conducted in Spanish published Monday, Sanchez said while he was told why he wasn’t behind the plate at times during the shortened regular season, that was not the case in the playoffs, when he started just twice in seven postseason games.
“When they benched me during the regular season, it was explained to me that I would catch one day and have a day off or catch two days and then have a day off to rest, [to] work on things,’’ Sanchez, who was replaced by Kyle Higashioka, told ESPN. “Then the playoffs came along, and you start getting excited and you have all that adrenaline. I already felt I was in better form and I had so much desire to contribute to the team, to finally do something, which I did not do in the regular season. Feeling like I couldn’t contribute was very hard. I always kept supporting my team. But the reality is, they never told me why I was benched. I didn’t know why I wasn’t playing.”
Sanchez said prior to the playoffs, when he didn’t play, he was told he’d get two or three days off to “get myself back together again.”
By the playoffs, Higashioka had become ace Gerrit Cole’s personal catcher, so Sanchez didn’t catch those games.
He started Game 2 against Cleveland and homered, but only started one more game the rest of the way.
“After almost a week without playing, it didn’t go well for me in the second game,’’ Sanchez said of going hitless with three striketous in an ALDS Game 2 loss to the Rays in the bubble in San Diego. “Actually, none of us did well in that game. After that, I thought I was going to play the next day, because it had been a very bad game for everybody. I struck out three times, but I felt like I was taking good cuts, good swings. I felt so much better.
“But I didn’t play. And I said to myself, ‘What happened here?’ But my job is to support my team. But from then on, nobody told me anything. They just told me, ‘Stay ready…’ I would have liked someone to tell me, ‘This is what’s happening…” and one has to understand and accept that as a man.”
Sanchez said he requested to talk to Aaron Boone after the season. The two had a “respectful and very positive conversation” and “cleared things up. After talking to Boone, everything is fine.”
Sanchez has been playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic to make up for lost at-bats during the 2020 season and general manager Brian Cashman said earlier this month Sanchez was “the heir apparent” at starting catcher heading into spring training.
But the GM this offseason has also called it a “fair question” to wonder what Sanchez’s role will be next season after playing so poorly last year.
“I cannot speak for the team, but I’m ready to be an everyday catcher,’’ Sanchez said. “Right now, I’m 27 and I don’t see myself as a catcher one day a week, two days a week. I don’t see my career going that way yet. I know that I can play and help the team on both sides of the ball every day.”
Last week, Cole told the YES Network he expected to work with both Sanchez and Higashioka next spring, but Higashioka caught Cole’s last four regular season starts and all of his postseason outings, with significantly better results than when he pitched to Sanchez.
“At first, I thought I was just getting days off,’’ Sanchez said. “The next time Cole’s turn came up, I had had like a day or two of rest, and it ended up that I was not in the lineup catching him. And at that moment, I said to myself, ‘I’m not going to get to catch him anymore.’
“But nobody told me or explained anything. I am someone who does not like to cause trouble, so I just let it go. I remained calm, because if Cole decides to choose someone, he knows what he’s doing.’’
Sanchez said it’s difficult hearing it from the fans — including the narrative that he’s a lazy player — but it comes with the territory off a season like he had.
“And now I have to listen to all the negative comments, everything that everyone has to say about me, because the truth is that I played badly at the plate,’’ Sanchez said. “ That is why I have to take everything anyone says. Let them say what they want; I deserve it. That will make me better and stronger.”