TAMPA, Fla. -- An extended network of family and friends have pinged Gary Sánchez’s cell phone over the last several weeks, with some asking his opinion of José Altuve’s reaction to the home run that decided last year’s American League Championship Series, when the Houston infielder told his teammates not
TAMPA, Fla. -- An extended network of family and friends have pinged Gary Sánchez’s cell phone over the last several weeks, with some asking his opinion of José Altuve’s reaction to the home run that decided last year’s American League Championship Series, when the Houston infielder told his teammates not to remove his jersey as he approached home plate.
“I can tell you that if I hit a homer and I get my team to the World Series, they can rip off my pants,” Sánchez said through an interpreter, adding a broad smile. “Everything. They can rip everything off. If I get my team to the World Series, hitting a walk-off homer like that, they can rip anything off.”
Six players in Major League history have hit pennant-winning homers, including Yankees manager Aaron Boone, but they’ve all avoided that nature of wardrobe malfunction -- so far.
Through agent Scott Boras, Altuve has denied the suggestion that he was wearing any type of device when he slugged that pennant-winning home run off closer Aroldis Chapman. Altuve said at the time that he didn’t want his jersey ripped off because he was “too shy.”
Sánchez isn’t sure if Altuve knew what was coming in that Game 6 at-bat, which ended when Altuve barreled an 83.6-mph slider over the fence in left-center field.
“He stayed back pretty well on that pitch,” Sánchez said. “But they asked him, ‘What were you looking for in that at-bat?’ and he said he was looking for an offspeed pitch. I don't know. It's a good question.”
During the regular season and playoffs, Sánchez and the Yankees believed that the Astros were attempting to steal their signs, though Sánchez was surprised to learn that electronic devices were part of the equation. Right-hander Luis Severino believed he was tipping pitches to Houston during the 2017 ALCS, only to learn something else was underway.
“I was mad in the beginning,” Severino said. “There was a lot of things that go through your mind when you're pitching against a team that good. Sometimes you think about tipping, you spend hours in the video room looking at yourself, saying, 'What am I doing?' And then hearing that was the problem, I was not even tipping. That wasn't the problem. But like I said, right now I'm not even mad. I just have to focus on this year.”
Sánchez worked on his flexibility this offseason and will showcase a different setup behind the plate this spring, as he has been working with new catching coach Tanner Swanson to receive pitches with his right knee lower to the ground. Sánchez said that the goal is to improve his ability to receive pitches that are low in the strike zone.
“I think we've had about a week since we started working together,” Sánchez said. “I can tell you that now I feel much better than Day 1, which is understandable. It's a learning process.”
In the gym
The Yankees hired Eric Cressey in January to oversee the club’s strength and conditioning program, though several players need no introduction to the noted performance coach. Cressey and his staff contacted with numerous Yankees ahead of camp, a group that includes Miguel Andújar, Michael King, Jordan Montgomery, Adam Ottavino, Sánchez and Severino.
King, who has worked with the Cressey Sports Performance center in the past, is looking forward to delving further into Cressey’s knowledge of biomechanics and kinesiology.
“Cressey has seen so many people that he knows exactly the good movements, bad movements, what degree of movement you have,” King said. “He does it a lot faster than the average person would. I think that they do a really good job at making it easy for us to understand.”
Z is for Zych
The Yankees announced on Wednesday that they have signed right-hander Tony Zych to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Major League Spring Training. Zych will wear No. 62.
The 29-year-old Zych underwent Thoracic outlet surgery in November 2018 and has not pitched professionally since 2017. In 70 career Major League appearances (one start) with Seattle from 2015-17, he went 7-3 with one save, a 2.72 ERA and 80 strikeouts. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Zych is alphabetically last among players to have appeared in a Major League game.
Yankees pitchers and catchers will hold their first official workout of the spring on Wednesday at Steinbrenner Field. Admission is free for all workouts through Feb. 20; gates will open to fans at approximately 10 a.m. ET.
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook.