NEW YORK -- There are probably less intimidating pitchers that Gary Sanchez could be making his first Major League starts against, but the Yankees' top catching prospect says that he is ready for the challenge.
New York promoted the right-handed-hitting Sanchez, who is rated as the team's No. 3 prospect by MLB Pipeline, on Friday as the Bronx Bombers prepared to face White Sox left-handers Chris Sale and Jose Quintana back to back. Sanchez batted sixth as the designated hitter and went 0-for-4 in Friday's 7-1 loss, and he is expected to DH again on Saturday.
"I was surprised, but at the same time, I was very happy that I got the call," Sanchez said through an interpreter.
Sanchez, 23, was viewed as the front-runner to claim the backup catcher's job behind Brian McCann this spring, but Sanchez produced just two hits in 22 spring at-bats and was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, with the Yankees choosing Austin Romine as the backup instead.
"There was a lot of talk that he was going to be the backup, and we were really encouraged about the way he played last year, last fall," manager Joe Girardi said. "It was probably a guy trying to do too much and trying too hard in Spring Training. That happens. It happens all the time."
The Yankees were pleased to see that Sanchez brought a positive attitude back to the Minors. In 27 games for the RailRiders, Sanchez caught eight of 16 runners attempting to steal, while batting .288 (32-for-111) with 11 doubles (tied for the International League lead), a triple, five home runs and 21 RBIs for a .877 OPS.
New York optioned left-hander Tyler Olson to Triple-A to create room for Sanchez.
"It just seems like [Sanchez has] been swinging the bat really well of late," Girardi said. "We figure he has a chance of really impacting a baseball. He has power to all fields. It's something we talked about earlier, but some things came up, and he is here now."
Sanchez logged two at-bats with the big league club last season and is seeking his first Major League hit. Sanchez said that being up with the Yankees late in the season -- he was active for the American League Wild Card Game against the Astros, but he did not play -- helped calm his nerves.
"My time here was brief last year, but during the time that I was here, I learned how to prepare better for the game and even learned a lot from just watching the guys play," Sanchez said. "We have a lot of veterans here. It's a lot of good experience for me."
Jacoby Ellsbury remained out of the Yankees' lineup on Friday, though Girardi expressed hope that Ellsbury will be able to return on Saturday or Sunday. He has not played since last Friday vs. Boston, when he felt tightness in his right hip after stealing third base.