Posted on April 9, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine

New York Yankees Gary Sanchez

Image via nydailynews.com

New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez is already having trouble following up what was a brilliant rookie season in 2016. With just three hits in his first 20 at-bats this season, Sanchez is now heading to the 10-day DL with strained right biceps.

The 24-year old catcher appeared to suffer the injury in the 5th inning of Saturday’s loss to the Baltimore Orioles when he fouled off a pitch from Baltimore starter Kevin Gausman. Sanchez grimaced as he fouled off the pitch and was immediately removed from the game after a visit from the team’s trainer. Afterward, the Yankees wasted little time in placing him on the 10-day DL, calling up catcher Kyle Higashioka to take his spot on the roster.

“I felt kind of like a pull when I had that swing when I fouled the ball off. I did not feel it on any other swing — just on that foul off the high fastball,” Sanchez after the game. “I felt like I pulled it right there. I tried to swing, and I felt it again, and they took me out of the game.”

The catcher likened the injury to pulling a hamstring. A timeline for his return isn’t known at this time. Sanchez will be re-evaluated when the team returns to New York following Sunday’s series finale against the Orioles. Doctors have initially called the injury a strain and not a tear, which is good news. Nevertheless, Sanchez will miss the team’s home opener Monday afternoon and will be on the shelf for at least 10 days, possibly longer.

“It’s his right biceps, which is his throwing arm, so that plays into it, as well,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said when asked about how much time Sanchez could miss. “So you have to be concerned. I think we’ll know a lot more in a couple days, depending on how sore he is and the severity of it.”

Austin Romine figures to take over most of the catching duties for the Yankees while Sanchez is on the DL. In 62 games with the Yankees last year, Romine hit .262 with a .650 OPS. He’s a competent backup but not necessarily someone the Yankees want to rely on for an extended period of time, as there’s a significant drop off between him and what Sanchez contributed last year.

Meanwhile, Higashioka figures to make his major league debut in the near future, as he will serve as the backup to Romine. He hit .276 with 21 home runs last year, splitting the season between double-A and triple-A.

“It’s an opportunity for other guys to step up. Romine and Higgy are going to have to step up in his absence,” Girardi said. “It’s not what you want to see. The kid’s very talented and has done some really good things in his short career, but the other guys get an opportunity now.”

If Sanchez ends up having to miss an extended period of time or the Yankees are dissatisfied with their internal catching options, there are a couple veteran backstops still available as free agents. Dioner Navarro, who came up through the team’s farm system and made his big league debut with the Yankees in 2004, is the most recognizable catcher still available, although he’s coming off a disappointing offensive season in 2016.

It’s still too early to know how much time Sanchez is going to miss, but the Yankees have to be concerned that he could miss significant time. He’s struggled during the first week of the season, but with Girardi inserting him into the no. 2 spot in the batting order, Sanchez is a vital part of the team’s success. Losing him for more than a couple weeks could cause profound damage to the hopes of a team that is already 1-4 to start the 2017 season.

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