Friday, May 19, 2023

Buck On Ex-Yankee Gary Sanchez Joining Mets: “This is a clean slate”


Photo by Jason Schott.

The Mets made a surprising, although not unexpected, move on Thursday night when they activated catcher Gary Sanchez, who began his career with the Yankees, and he is on the roster for Friday night’s game against Cleveland.

Sanchez burst on the scene with the Yankees in August 2016, when he hit 20 home runs in 53 games, and was viewed as their top phenom over Aaron Judge, who struggled in his initial appearances in The Bronx.

In his first full season with the Yankees in 2017, he was an All-Star and a big part in their run to the American League Championship Series, as he hit .278 with 33 home runs and 90 RBI in 131 games.

The following season, Sanchez’s average dipped to .186, but he still hit 18 homers and had 53 RBI.

In 2019, he bounced back and was an All-Star again, as he hit 34 home runs with 77 RBI, as he got his batting average back up to .232 and his on-base percentage was .316.

Sanchez then took a step back in the pandemic season of 2020, and that continued into ‘21, when he was constantly booed at Yankee Stadium, as his strikeout total (121) and .204 average outweighed his 23 home runs and 54 RBI.

Then, just before the 2022 season, as spring training commenced after the lockout, Sanchez was jettisoned to Minnesota, along with infielder Gio Urshela for third baseman Josh Donaldson and catcher Ben Rortvedt. (That trade hasn’t exactly worked out for the Yankees, but that’s another day and another cup of coffee, as Niles Crane would say.)

In his one year with the Twins, Sanchez hit .205 with a .282 on-base percentage, 16 home runs, and 61 RBI, with 136 strikeouts in 128 games.

The San Francisco Giants signed Sanchez in the offseason, and he played 16 games at their Triple-A affiliate in Sacramento, where he hit just .164, so once he wasn’t added to their 40-man roster by May 1, he opted out.

The Mets signed him to a minor-league contract on May 9, and they had 10 days to decide on whether he would come to Queens, and after he hit .318 with a 1.077 OPS in seven games, he is here.

Mets Manager Buck Showalter said of Sanchez’s path here in his pregame remarks on Friday afternoon, “He’s getting a chance to play in the big leagues when it looked like it might not happen for him again. I think he understands that that opportunity is one he needs to take advantage of.”

Showalter said of how he intends to use him, “We’ll see how it evolves. I’m going to let him settle in for a day. Obviously did it last night and talked to (backup catcher) Michael (Perez). That was tough, Mike had a really good game last night, kind of goes unnoticed about that one, I thought he was solid, but it’s another good depth for us, but we’ll see.

“Alvy (Francisco Alvarez) will catch tonight, and we’ll let things kind of shake out a little bit and see what tomorrow brings. He’s doing well down there (at Syracuse) and we’re going to see if he can contribute for us. I think he’s got that possibility, but exactly how it evolves, I want to kind of let it settle in first.”

On what reports he got from Sanchez’s play in the minors: “He’s impacting the ball well, that’s the way I’ve heard it described. I’ve seen Gary a lot over the years with the Yankees while I was with the Orioles. We all know he can throw, that tool is still there…Good teammate, really got after it there, absorbed a lot of things. We’re really respectful of what the Yankees and Minnesota and San Francisco have tried to do; they also didn’t have room for him, so we’ll see. We made room and we’re going to take a look at it.”

When Showalter was asked if this is an addition for Sanchez, he quipped, “Isn’t everything? Hope he makes it hard on us, and we look for ways to create.” 

That basically is referring to him keeping his spot on the roster when catchers Tomas Nido and Omar Narvaez return in the next few weeks.

On whether Sanchez would be an option at designated hitter, Buck said, “Yeah, I could do that if I want to kind of roll that way. It’s a little bit of a chance you take, but I could do that, so that makes him an option, right. Everybody’s an option except me, I am out of options in more ways that one.”

Showalter was then asked what changes Sanchez has made as a hitter, and he said, “I’m locked in on these 26 (players) and he’s one of them now. I’ve got a lot of confidence in the people that are there evaluating and looking abc watching and helping and projecting, and, you know, I’m anxious to see if the good things he was doing carry over up here.

“He’s done it in the past, but we’ll see. I’m just starting to get to know him and you know at some point you listen, you listen and then you go, ‘okay, let him have an open mind without any preconceived - I think players appreciate that and like that, that you don’t come into it, where everything that happened in the past is going to happen again, good and bad. 

“So, this is a clean slate, and let’s see how it goes. 

“The challenge for me is to get the playing time for everybody. We’ve got a lot of people here, and that’s the good thing, that they’re used to playing, so I got to manage that.”

Sanchez, who wore number 24 in The Bronx, will be wearing 33 with the Mets, which was last worn by another catcher, James McCann. 

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