Gary Sanchez couldn’t have drawn a much tougher assignment in his first major league start as the Yankees’ designated hitter Friday night against White Sox lefthander Chris Sale, who came in with a 7-0 record and 1.79 ERA. But manager Joe Girardi said Sanchez earned the callup with his impressive righthanded power at Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Repeating the advice he offered the 23-year-old catching prospect, Girardi said he told Sanchez: “Soak it in. I know you were up the last month last year, but this is your first start in the big leagues. Take it all in as much as you can because it’s going to go fast.”
Sanchez was hitless in two at-bats last September, but he was expected to win the backup catching job in spring training. It didn’t happen. Veteran Austin Romine, who started behind the plate last night in place of Brian McCann, beat him out.
Describing what happened in the spring, Sanchez said through an interpreter, “I was focusing on getting the job done. I had some good at-bats. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a good amount of hits, and they sent me to Triple-A. But here I am today.”
At the time he was called up, Sanchez had a batting average of .288 with five homers, 21 RBIs and an OPS of .877. “It just seems like he’s been swinging the bat really well as of late,” Girardi said. “He has power to all fields . . . If we were going to [need a] DH, that’s the guy.”
Girardi said Sanchez, who went 0-for-4 Friday night, will DH again Saturday against White Sox lefthander Jose Quintana, who is 5-1 with an American League-leading 1.38 ERA. Quintana is a former Yankees farmhand who briefly played with Sanchez in 2010.
Opponents have tried to throw as many lefthanders as possible against the Yankees. Asked about the opportunity he has to make a splash, Sanchez said, “I really don’t know. It’s [management’s] strategy. My job is to be ready for the game, and I’ve got to contribute the best way I can.”
Notes and quotes: LHP Tyler Olson was optioned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to make room for Sanchez . . . Girardi hopes to play CF Jacoby Ellsbury this weekend, possibly even Saturday, if he has recovered from his hip injury.