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Sanchez works on swing; Hicks nears return

MLB.com @BryanHoch

NEW YORK -- Gary Sanchez continues to star in the best pregame show in baseball, hammering drives into the Yankee Stadium bleachers in the same batting practice group as Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, though the big-swinging catcher is working on more than his distance.

Sanchez, whose first 26 at-bats of the season produced only a double and a home run (.077 average), said he has been huddling with hitting coach Marcus Thames to tinker with a flaw in his swing.

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NEW YORK -- Gary Sanchez continues to star in the best pregame show in baseball, hammering drives into the Yankee Stadium bleachers in the same batting practice group as Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, though the big-swinging catcher is working on more than his distance.

Sanchez, whose first 26 at-bats of the season produced only a double and a home run (.077 average), said he has been huddling with hitting coach Marcus Thames to tinker with a flaw in his swing.

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"I wanted to make some minor adjustments," Sanchez said through an interpreter. "I worked with Marcus in the cage and watched some videos, and tried to stay up the middle. I still think I need to make more adjustments."

The 25-year-old Sanchez led all Major League catchers in runs (79), homers (33), RBIs (90) and slugging percentage (.531) last season, earning his first American League Silver Slugger Award.

"The adjustment I wanted to make was to keep my swing shorter, make good contact on the ball and stay up the middle," Sanchez said. "That's what I wanted to do. I felt like I was a little too rushed when I was hitting, and don't miss your pitch. I felt like I was getting some good pitches to hit, but I wasn't connecting the way I wanted."

Sanchez said he is not frustrated by the slow start at the plate, and manager Aaron Boone believes that his backstop is due for some damage.

"I think he's had a huge impact on the pitching staff so far," Boone said. "As far as the hitting goes, when you're that good a hitter and as young as he is, in the prime of your career -- that's a matter of time.

"I just think somebody's going to pay at some point, so I don't even sweat that. As great a hitter as he is, I don't sweat that at all. That'll come. What I'm excited about is the impact he's having on a daily basis behind the plate."

Comeback trail
Aaron Hicks (right intercostal strain) is expected to play in Minor League rehab games this weekend and he plans to join the big league lineup next week, but Boone is not certain if they will have the switch-hitting outfielder back for Tuesday's series opener against the Red Sox.

Video: Boone on decision to place Hicks on 10-day DL

"We'll see. I know he's doing really well," Boone said. "We certainly need him. We miss him, but we also want to be smart. He was upset at me for even going on the disabled list. He didn't feel like he needed to, but with a Grade 1 situation, we felt like we had to get ahead of this."

The Yankees have been playing short-handed in the outfield, relying heavily upon Stanton, Brett Gardner and Judge. Ronald Torreyes and Tyler Wade have been preparing for emergency duty, should they be needed prior to Hicks' return.

"All signs are pointing to [Hicks] being back, whether it's early in the week or the middle of the week," Boone said. "We think it's around the corner, but we've got to get through some significant steps before we get there."

Seeking relief
The Yankees' bullpen was widely expected to be a strength this season, and though 16 of the first 26 runs permitted by the club were charged to their relievers, Boone remains confident in their ability to put out fires.

"I'm not seeing any downtick in the stuff," Boone said. "I just think they've gotten us a couple of times. No, I'm not concerned about it. There's no red flags to me as far as drop in stuff or where you think guys might be at this time of the year."

Injury report
Jacoby Ellsbury (left hip soreness) is being seen by a specialist in New York. Ellsbury was eligible to come off the 10-day disabled list on Thursday, but his rehab from a right oblique strain stalled when the outfielder felt discomfort in his hip during hitting drills.

"It doesn't sound like it's anything serious, but it's been enough to shut him down for a couple days," Boone said. "We really haven't found much with it yet. Hopefully we can find out and get it treated properly, and hopefully it's something that's a short-term thing."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.

New York Yankees, Jacoby Ellsbury, Aaron Hicks, Gary Sanchez