LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Sonny Gray and Gary Sanchez have made it a priority to work together as frequently as possible this spring, which is helping them improve their communication for the regular season.Gray fired 3 2/3 scoreless innings of one-hit ball in his second Grapefruit League outing on
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Sonny Gray and Gary Sanchez have made it a priority to work together as frequently as possible this spring, which is helping them improve their communication for the regular season.
Gray fired 3 2/3 scoreless innings of one-hit ball in his second Grapefruit League outing on Friday, a 3-1 loss to the Braves at Champion Stadium. As he prepares for his first full season in New York, Gray has been able to discover a comfort level with Sanchez behind the plate.
"I love that guy," Gray said. "I mean, he works so hard every day. It's easy for me to communicate with him and get with him because he's always available. I think I've thrown almost every bullpen to him; every time I've faced hitters, it's been with Gary. The goal is to get on the same page."
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Sanchez's bat would provide enough of a reason for manager Aaron Boone to keep him in the lineup -- he hit a long homer to the left-field berm and ripped a line-drive single up the middle in three at-bats on Friday, and is 7-for-17 this spring -- but he also appreciates being recognized for his defense.
"I put in a lot of work in the offseason back in the Dominican Republic and here as well with my coaches," Sanchez said through an interpreter. "What I want to do is be more consistent blocking and receiving pitches. That's what I've been trying to do, and that's the focus moving forward."
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In Game 4 of last year's American League Championship Series against the Astros, Gray was paired with backup catcher Austin Romine after former manager Joe Girardi observed that Sanchez had trouble handling Gray in Game 1 of the AL Division Series against the Indians.
That story line was front and center in the Yankees' minds when pitchers and catchers reported to Florida last month. Boone said that he and the team's coaches, particularly pitching coach Larry Rothschild, have placed a premium upon having Gray and Sanchez together for side work and bullpens.
"[We emphasized] being on the same page from a communication standpoint, from a game-plan standpoint, and then Gary has worked a lot with making a point to catch his sides from the get-go," Boone said. "[Sanchez is] just getting real comfortable with his stuff, with what Sonny wants to do, and I feel like the work between the two of them has been good."
Gray said that he is "not necessarily the easiest guy in the world to catch," explaining that he frequently tries to change speeds and move the ball unconventionally, which can chew up a catcher. Sanchez is learning to adapt to those patterns.
"To me, it's about being soft behind the plate," Sanchez said. "His pitches move a lot. That's what I've been trying to do, stay soft and relaxed behind the plate, and adjust."
Thus far, Gray has offered Sanchez nothing but rave reviews, encouraging the Yankees that their battery will be charged for a great season ahead.
"He's a worker and he's such a likeable, lovable guy, and you get the sense that he genuinely cares," Gray said. "[Romine] is the exact same way. From a pitcher's perspective, you couldn't ask for anything else. Now it's just about continuing the repetition."
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.