Today’s first Yankees home run was to deep right field. Torii Hunter camped in front of the warning track as if it were a routine fly ball, but Brian McCann wasn’t fooled. He knew he’d hit the ball well, and it was heading to the top of a blue building well beyond the outfield wall.
The second Yankees home run was to left field. This one was more of a line drive, remarkable not for how far it went but for how quickly it left. Off the bat, it might have been a double if didn’t have the hang time, but it stayed up and just keep traveling; Gary Sanchez’s first ever home run in big league camp.
“I’m working hard to be able to belong,” Sanchez said. “Just keep working and we’ll see.”
It was interesting to see those two go deep: the catcher signed to a five-year contract, and the catcher so often labeled as the top prospect in the Yankees minor league system. This was the winter Sanchez was added to the 40-man roster. It’s also the winter he watched the Yankees signed a long-term deal with a guy who plays his position. Sanchez heard the news on his television back home in the Dominican Republic.
“It’s not something that made me feel bad particularly,” Sanchez said. “It wasn’t my decision. I’m just focused on myself and I’m just working hard on myself. … I never thought of it as any sort of danger or anything to my own future with the team. I never saw that.”
Sanchez just turned 21 in December and he’s played only 23 games above High-A. It’s not as if he’s knocking on the door to the big leagues. While the Yankees say they’ve been encouraged by his progress on defense — and Sanchez said he’s been working on his defense a lot this spring — I’ve talked to other talent evaluators who still doubt he’ll be a legitimate big league catcher. Ultimately, he still has hurdles to clear before he’s faced with a true logjam. By the time he’s ready, McCann could be ready for time at first base and designated hitter.
“I’m not going to get too far ahead of myself,” McCann said. “I feel great right now, so that’s kind of the way I operate.”
McCann and Sanchez had their solo homers, Francisco Arcia had a triple and Austin Romine had a base hit. That’s four catchers with hits in this game alone. John Ryan Murphy has also been an early standout offensively, and Francisco Cervelli seems to have a leg up in the competition for the big league backup job. For now the Yankees catching position belongs to McCann, and Sanchez is still a gem of the minor league system, and in between is considerable depth.
It’s become a position with all sorts of possibilities for the short term and the long term.
“Obviously, (the catchers) had a good day and they swung the bat extremely well,” manager Joe Girardi said. “… It’s nice (to have that depth) because we know how quickly they can get nicked up and you want to have people you can turn to. We look at the guys we have in camp now, four of them played in the big leagues last year. That’s unusual.”
Associated Press photo