Currently tied at one win apiece, the Yankees and Rays will meet for Game 3 of the ALDS on Wednesday. New York won’t have Gary Sanchez behind the plate, as it benched him in favor of Kyle Higashioka after an 0-for-4, three-strikeout performance in Game 2, Marly Rivera of ESPN was among those to report. And it doesn’t appear Sanchez will have a stranglehold on the position going forward. Rather, manager Aaron Boone said the situation’s “day to day.”
This is the second time in the series the Yankees have sat Sanchez in favor of the typically light-hitting Higashioka, who has taken over as ace and Game 1 starter Gerrit Cole’s personal catcher. The Yankees are slated to pitch Masahiro Tanaka on Wednesday, but Higashioka will nonetheless don the tools of ignorance.
Considering the torrid pace he was on earlier in his career, which started in earnest in 2016, it’s a surprise Sanchez is no longer the Yankees’ easy choice at catcher. He was an excellent hitter through 2017, but his numbers declined significantly the next year before a bounce-back 2019 effort. However, the 27-year-old could only manage a .147/.253/.365 line with 10 home runs in 178 plate appearances during the 2020 regular season. Behind the plate, Sanchez threw out a league-average 26 percent of would-be base stealers but only finished in the 39th percentile in the framing category, per Statcast, and he led the AL in passed balls for the third time in four years.
Regardless of how this season ends for the World Series hopeful Yankees, it’ll be interesting to see whether they continue to place their faith in Sanchez, who has two years of arbitration eligibility left. The lone slam dunk improvement over Sanchez on the free-agent market will be the Phillies’ J.T. Realmuto, who should easily exceed $100MM on his contract. The Yankees do have the financial might to sign him if they’re dissatisfied with Sanchez, though.
For now, it remains to be seen whether Sanchez will start again in this series, but if he’s back in the lineup in Game 4, he’ll work with left-hander Jordan Montgomery. Boone said Montgomery, who had a rough time keeping runs off the board in the regular season, will take the ball in that contest, Lindsey Adler of The Athletic relays.