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Sanchez emphasized defense in offseason

Yankees catcher looking to build upon strides made behind plate late last season
MLB.com @BryanHoch

TAMPA, Fla. -- Gary Sanchez absorbed the criticism of his defensive abilities last season, both within the Yankees organization and outside of it. As he heads into his second full big league season, the 25-year-old promises to be a more complete presence on both sides of the ball.

"This past offseason I worked really hard on defense because I want to be better than last year," Sanchez said through an interpreter. "I want to fix all the little issues that I had last year, defensively. I want to keep improving. That's the bottom line; keep improving."

TAMPA, Fla. -- Gary Sanchez absorbed the criticism of his defensive abilities last season, both within the Yankees organization and outside of it. As he heads into his second full big league season, the 25-year-old promises to be a more complete presence on both sides of the ball.

"This past offseason I worked really hard on defense because I want to be better than last year," Sanchez said through an interpreter. "I want to fix all the little issues that I had last year, defensively. I want to keep improving. That's the bottom line; keep improving."

Though the Yankees rated most parts of Sanchez's defense as above-average, ball-blocking was a concern. Sanchez's 16 passed balls tied Yasmani Grandal for the big league lead, and the 53 wild pitches thrown while Sanchez was catching were second only to Jonathan Lucroy (58).

Spring Training information

The resulting frustrations boiled over after a loss in Cleveland in August, when former manager Joe Girardi was critical of Sanchez's difficulty blocking balls. To that point, Sanchez had permitted 12 passed balls in 553 2/3 innings and thrown out 10 of 36 potential basestealers (27.8 percent).

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

After Girardi's comments and three days off defensively, Sanchez permitted four passed balls in 327 1/3 innings and threw out nine of 20 would-be basestealers (45 percent).

"Looking back at all the things that Girardi said, I feel that all the stuff that he said, it was to help me be better," Sanchez said. "At the end of the year, I thought he helped me get better. In this experience, you learn. There is stuff that you go through. You have to learn from that stuff and keep getting better. But you also have to move on. You've got to live and learn, especially from last year, and that's the focus."

Video: Outlook: Sanchez might be game's best hitting catcher

During last season, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman suggested that Sanchez's added muscle was limiting his mobility. Sanchez appeared to be slightly trimmer Tuesday but said that he weighed about the same as last year. He is listed at 230 pounds.

"Physically, I feel great," Sanchez said. "I feel in great shape."

Lean and mean: Yankees reliever Dellin Betances said he lost about 14 pounds after hiring a nutritionist, hoping that a trimmer frame will help him repeat his delivery consistently. Betances had trouble commanding his fastball for strikes late last year, including two postseason appearances in which he did not retire a batter.

"I have to feel good where I'm at with my delivery, and I think right now I feel good, and I'm repeating it well," said Betances, who weighed in Tuesday at 264 pounds. "I've just got to continue to do that. I definitely can self-correct, but I feel like last year my delivery just wasn't there."

Video: ALCS Gm6: Betances whiffs Gonzalez in the 8th

One spring after Betances engaged in a war of words with the front office after a loss in salary arbitration, he was pleased to have avoided the process, agreeing to a $5.1 million deal in January. Last year, Betances was awarded $3 million rather than the $5 million he requested.

"For me, last year was a tough year," Betances said. "I think there was a lot of negativity I came into. This year, I'm just trying to be as positive as I can and do the best I can to help this team win a championship."

On that topic, Betances said that this might be his first Spring Training in which the Yankees were being widely touted as title favorites.

"We were so close last year; we were one win away from the World Series," Betances said. "We know what it feels like, and we kind of have that sour taste in our mouth. We want to win. So if we don't win, it's not a great year for us."

They said it: "Win the last game." -- Manager Aaron Boone, on his goals for the 2018 Yankees

Full transcript of Aaron Boone news conference

Up next: The Yankees will hold their first pitchers-and-catchers workout Wednesday morning. Masahiro Tanaka is among those expected to throw in the bullpen, and Aaron Judge will be made available in an afternoon news conference.

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

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez