NEW YORK -- Gary Sánchez's quest to change the narrative after a disappointing 2020 season got off to a good start on Thursday. The Yankees catcher lifted his team’s first home run of the new campaign, a two-run shot off the Blue Jays’ Hyun Jin Ryu in the second inning.
Sánchez cleared the left-field wall with a 407-foot drive, coming off his bat at 107.2 mph, according to Statcast. Sánchez’s homer came with Gleyber Torres aboard and represented the Bombers’ offensive output in a 3-2, 10-inning loss on Opening Day at Yankee Stadium.
“It feels good to get going this way,” Sánchez said through an interpreter. “I spoke about consistency before and I think I had that today in all the at-bats. That's definitely something that I want to keep on having throughout the other games; stay calm, and also behind the plate as well.”
Sánchez reached base safely three times in the contest, finishing 2-for-3, including the first Opening Day homer of his career. He also threw out a runner on the basepaths, catching Randal Grichuk attempting to steal second base and ending the seventh inning.
“It was good to see him come out like that,” said manager Aaron Boone. “At the plate, I thought he was excellent. He was on time, recognizing the pitch. I really felt like yesterday, he had a good day's work and a really good batting practice. He carried that into today and all of his at-bats. He was on time and dangerous.”
The Yankees have expressed confidence in Sánchez, a two-time All-Star who had the Majors’ lowest batting average (minimum 150 plate appearances) in 2020, hitting .147/.253/.365 with 10 home runs and 24 RBIs in 49 games.
Sánchez did not start behind the plate in five of the Yanks’ seven postseason contests, yielding to backup Kyle Higashioka, though Boone has said that Sánchez would have returned to catching duties if the club had advanced past the Rays in the American League Division Series.
Thursday marked Sánchez’s first assignment catching ace right-hander Gerrit Cole in a non-spring game since their battery was unplugged last Aug. 31. Cole’s final four starts of the regular season, plus three more in the playoffs, came with Higashioka behind the dish.
“I thought we were pretty good,” Cole said. “I had some poor execution on a couple pitches, which burned us. I thought we made really good pitches to stop the bleeding in the second [inning] after the three consecutive singles. There was a lot of good out there.”
On the throw to catch Grichuk in the seventh, Sánchez showed off one of the biggest benefits of having him behind the plate -- his strong arm. He had to backhand a low 96 mph fastball from Chad Green just off the dirt, and he still managed to fire the ball to second base in time to get the out, with help from a nifty swipe tag by DJ LeMahieu as he came across the front of the bag.
And now, with the all-new MLB FieldVision, we can watch exactly how Sánchez made his rocket throw in 3D. FieldVision is a new technology that gives fans access to never-before-seen camera angles of the play. Check out how Grichuk puts his head down and hustles for second, and LeMahieu's path to cover the base, and how Sánchez's throw tails perfectly to the right side of the bag to put LeMahieu in position to slap down a quick tag.
This spring, Sánchez earned high marks from the Yankees’ staff -- particularly Boone, hitting coach Marcus Thames and catching coach Tanner Swanson -- for his preparation and improvement on both sides of the ball.
“I definitely felt that it was my best Spring Training behind the plate,” Sánchez said. “I want to find that consistency, keep that consistency going behind the plate as well. I think if I'm able to execute the way I did during Spring Training, this is going to be a good year.”