That’s probably a good thing. At long last, it’s probably the right thing.
The catcher, who went 0-for-4 Sunday against the Mets to drop his batting average to just .190, wasn’t in the Yankees’ lineup for Tuesday’s series opener against the Nationals. He won’t be in there Wednesday, either. With Sonny Gray on the mound, the Yankees are planning to once again have backup catcher Austin Romine work with the pitcher, much the way he has the past month.
Sanchez’s back-to-back bench days — barring a last-minute decision by manager Aaron Boone to use him as the designated hitter — come on the heels of Monday’s team off-day. This means the struggling slugger likely will have three days down before returning to action Thursday.
The combination of a heavy recent workload, what Sanchez calls an “aching” calf, and a string of disappointing at-bats led the typically patient Boone to finally sit the slumping star.
“He’s had just the wear and tear of catching, whether it’s shoulder, knee, calf,” Boone said. “He’s fine, he’s good to play, but overall he’s a little banged up and maybe that’s leaking in a little bit.”
In his past 15 games, Sanchez has compiled an .075 (4-for-53) average with 18 strikeouts. His batting average in that span is the worst among major leaguers with at least 40 at-bats since May 22.
In addition to struggling to simply make contact, Sanchez’s power numbers have taken a massive hit. He’s on a 16-game homerless streak, the longest of his career by four games.
“The reason I’m not hitting is because I’m missing pitches I usually hit,” Sanchez said through an interpreter. “Maybe I’m overthinking a little too much and that’s why I’m missing those pitches I don’t usually miss. I’ve swung at some pitcher’s pitches, really good pitches, and I’ve missed those.”
He didn’t miss the last pitch he swung at, a line drive right into the glove of Mets third baseman Todd Frazier to end a Yankees loss Sunday night. According to Statcast, the liner left his bat at 92.2 mph. A few feet in any other direction and Sanchez could’ve had himself a timely RBI double.
Sanchez might be banged up, but this time off appears to be a much-needed mental break too.
It hasn’t been all that common for Boone to bench his struggling players for multiple games. Save for an occasional off-day, the first-year manager has regularly opted to give his scuffling hitters their at-bats, hoping routine will eventually ease them out of it.
Boone has done that with Giancarlo Stanton, Didi Gregorius, Brett Gardner and, until now, Sanchez. For Gardner, who went through one particularly horrid 5-for-42 (.119) stretch in May, the manager’s patience was reassuring and confidence-building.
“It’s important for guys to know that their manager, their hitting coach or whoever it is has their back,” Gardner said. “I think to myself, those four or five, however many weeks to this season, and just to keep running me out there in the leadoff spot, getting me my at-bats and letting me continue to see pitches and work out of it. That’s important to kind of just stay the course.”
It’s easier to give players who aren’t hitting more opportunities to turn it around when others around them are hitting well, the outfielder acknowledged.
“We’ve got a great lineup, and when you’re winning and scoring runs and pitching well and things are going well, you can afford to give guys a little more time to work out of things,” Gardner said.
Gregorius, who had his own 1-for-42 slump that at one point last month dropped his average by nearly 100 points, took comfort in other hitters — such as Gardner, Aaron Judge, Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres — heating up as he struggled.
“Like I say, if it was just about one person, then the team would not be doing good. But everybody picks each other up. That’s one thing that we always have here,” Gregorius said. “One guy’s struggling today, but then the same day, somebody else is going to pick him up anyway.”
Regularly this season, Romine has been there to not only pick up Sanchez but to help carry the team. In 76 plate appearances, Romine is batting .348 with a 1.027 OPS. He has been especially good with runners in scoring position, hitting .474 with 15 RBIs in 24 chances. On Tuesday, he drove in a runner with a sacrifice fly.
Meanwhile, Sanchez has posted a .721 OPS to go along with a batting average below the Mendoza Line. In 69 plate appearances with runners in scoring position, he’s batting .236 with 24 RBIs and 18 strikeouts.
Boone’s patience isn’t only evident in the opportunities he gives struggling players. It has been evident in comments he has made publicly about those players. The phrase “I believe he’s close” has been a mainstay in the manager’s lexicon.
Before Sunday’s game, he said something similar about Sanchez.
“He’ll settle in and the hits will start to follow and the hitter we know will be soon after,” Boone said. “One of the things I talk to Sanchie about a lot is go up there and have a good at-bat. Because of who you are and the talent you have, the results will be there. The results will follow when you’re having good at-bats.
“It’s simply a matter of time before he gets rolling again.”
Sanchez’s teammates echo that.
“For me, he’s too talented to continue doing what he’s doing,” Gardner said. “That’s not a knock on him; it’s just a matter of things will find a way of evening themselves out over the last half of the season.”
That’s how Sanchez feels, too.
“Slumps are part of baseball,” Sanchez said. “The same way they begin, they end.”
Judge rules Lorena Martin, Seattle Mariners must go to arbitration
SEATTLE — A King County Superior Court judge has ruled that Lorena Martin’s wrongful termination lawsuit against the Seattle Mariners must be resolved in private arbitration rather than in court.
Judge Regina Cahan ruled Friday that Martin had signed a contract with the team that called for any contract dispute to be resolved via arbitration, and that the contract was signed prior to a new state law that calls for cases of discrimination to be heard in open court.
Martin’s lawyer had argued that the Mariners wanted arbitration as a way to keep the case out of the public spotlight, The Seattle Times reported. But Cahan said the new law, which went into effect last June, did not pre-empt the clauses in Martin’s contract calling for arbitration.
Martin was fired as the Mariners’ high-performance director last fall after one season on the job. She has claimed she was discriminated against by members of the organization and claimed that general manager Jerry Dipoto, director of player development Andy McKay and manager Scott Servais made disparaging comments against Latino players.
The Mariners have denied Martin’s claims. An independent investigation by Major League Baseball found no credible evidence to support Martin’s claims of disparaging comments and discriminatory treatment by members of the Mariners front office.
Martin had signed a three-year contract with the team after being hired away from the Los Angeles Lakers in the fall of 2017.
Regular season pitch clocks this year are a real possibility
Major League Baseball will implement a 20-second pitch clock for spring training games, and sources told ESPN that adding it for this regular season is a real possibility.
MLB announced the parameters for the clock in spring training Friday, outlining an easing-in period early in spring training during which the clock will operate without penalty for pitchers or hitters who run afoul.
“Later in spring training,” the league said in a release, it could instruct umpires to assess ball-or-strike penalties for clock violations.
The league continues to negotiate with the MLB Players Association about the possibility of implementing the clock in the regular season this year, but commissioner Rob Manfred can unilaterally impose a clock should the talks fall apart.
A pitch clock, which the league hopes will shave significant time off the average game time of 3 hours, 4 minutes in 2018, has been used in the minor leagues since 2015.
The clock does not run on the first pitch of a plate appearance and starts when the pitcher receives the ball from the catcher. If the batter isn’t in the box with five seconds left on the clock, umpires can assess him a strike. The pitcher must begin his windup or come to a set position before the expiration of the clock to avoid being penalized a ball.
Other details include:
The clock is reset to 20 seconds when the pitcher steps off the rubber or attempts a pickoff
The clock not being used on the pitch following a foul ball, a mound visit and an umpire calling timeout (except when replacing a ball in the dirt)
The pitcher must be in the dirt circle surrounding the bound and the catcher in the catcher’s box for the clock to start
10 stars not named Bryce or Manny who changed teams this winter
While the wait for Manny Machado and Bryce Harper to sign dominated the offseason, some other big names made their way to new homes across the majors this winter. Need a refresher on who landed where as spring training action heats up? We’ve got you covered.
New team: St. Louis Cardinals
What to expect: A star in St. Louis. Goldschmidt’s move might not have had the fanfare of the Bryce and Manny watch, but there is a case to be made that the six-time All-Star is the best player who changed teams this winter. The 31-year-old slugger has finished in the top three of NL MVP voting three times during his career, and another big season on a bigger stage in St. Louis could help Goldy win some hardware.
New team: New York Mets
How they got them: New Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen took advantage of Seattle’s fire sale, netting the second baseman and closer from the Mariners in a win-now deal that cost New York prospects Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn.
What to expect: Cano posted a .303/.374/.471 slash line during a 2018 season cut in half by an 80-game suspension for a violation of MLB’s performance-enhancing drugs policy. He batted .317 in 41 games after returning from the suspension and should give the Mets a needed offensive boost in the infield.
Diaz will undoubtedly bring electricity to the ninth inning at Citi Field. Armed with a high-90s fastball and a filthy hard slider, the closer struck out 124 batters in 73⅓ innings on his way to a 57-save 2018 and could be the best closer in his new league this year.
New team: Cincinnati Reds
How they got him: Cincinnati landed Puig along with Matt Kemp and Alex Wood from the Dodgers in a seven-player deal in which L.A. sought to change its salary structure and the Reds focused on bringing in veterans to help the team climb out of the NL Central cellar.
What to expect: Puig being Puig. Playing in a new home in a contract year will provide plenty of motivation for the outfielder, but the big question remains: Can Puig finally put it all together for an entire season?
New team: Washington Nationals
How they got him: The Nationals outbid a host of suitors for the most coveted starter on the free-agent market by handing out a six-year, $140 million deal that gives Washington a three-ace rotation featuring Corbin alongside Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg.
What to expect: The 29-year-old left-hander rode his devastating slider to a breakout 2018 that culminated with a top-five finish for NL Cy Young honors, and there’s no reason to expect anything less in 2019. If Scherzer, Corbin and Strasburg all deliver, a bounce-back season is likely for the Nats — with or without Bryce Harper.
New team: Atlanta Braves
How they got him: A lifelong Braves fan growing up in Alabama, Donaldson bet on himself by taking a one-year, $23 million deal with Atlanta early in the offseason instead of searching for a multiyear offer.
What to expect: Injuries have limited Donaldson over the past two seasons, but he still has been effective when he’s been able to take the field. Small sample size alert: In a short stint with the Indians last season, Donaldson put up a .280/.400/.507 slash line that topped his career marks in all three categories.
New team: Houston Astros
How they got him: The sweet-swinging outfielder inked a two-year, $32 million contract to join the Astros in December.
What to expect: Another potent bat in an already-deep Houston lineup. An All-Star each of the past two seasons, Brantley is a shoo-in to hit .300 with some pop as long as he can stay healthy after an injury-plagued finish to his time with the Indians.
New team: Philadelphia Phillies
How they got him: By including pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez in a package for Realmuto, the Phillies convinced the Marlins to trade the All-Star catcher within the NL East during an offseason that also saw Philadelphia add Andrew McCutchen and Jean Segura to its lineup.
What to expect: While getting a likely All-Star starter is certainly an upgrade, Philadelphia’s offseason will be judged by whether adding Realmuto is the final big splash or the move before bringing a certain outfielder to Citizens Bank Park. Either way, Realmuto will provide a big boost at the catcher position with the potential to blow past his career high of 21 home runs now that he’s playing in a much more hitter-friendly ballpark.
New team: Los Angeles Dodgers
How they got him: After clearing space in the outfield by trading away Puig and Kemp, the Dodgers brought in Pollock on a four-year, $55 million deal.
What to expect: When he plays, Pollock is an All-Star-caliber center fielder who contributes in every phase of the game. Staying healthy has been an issue, though, for a guy who hasn’t played in more than 115 games since 2015 and has eclipsed 450 at-bats only once in his career.
New team: New York Yankees
How they got him: In need of a rotation upgrade, the Yankees parted with prospect Justus Sheffield and two other minor leaguers to land Paxton from the Mariners on Nov. 19.
What to expect: Best known for either his 2018 no-hitter or having a bald eagle land on him during the national anthem last season, Paxton will get a chance to show his stuff on the big stage at Yankee Stadium this year. The 30-year-old lefty has had injury troubles throughout his career but has the stuff to dominate in any park and has struck out more than a batter per inning over the course of his career.
New team: Los Angeles Angels
How they got him: Harvey signed a one-year, $11 million contract — with incentives that could push it to $14 million — on Dec. 21.
What to expect: After his time with the Mets came to an end last May, Harvey showed signs of bouncing back during a four-month stint with the Reds. His 4.50 ERA and 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings with Cincinnati provide a realistic expectation for Harvey going forward, even if it is a far cry from his Dark Knight production earlier in the decade.
Bonus name to know: Yusei Kikuchi
New team: Seattle Mariners
How they got him: After being posted by the Seibu Lions of Japan early in the offseason, Kikuchi signed an interesting contract with the Mariners that guarantees $56 million and could be worth as much as $109 million. His pact with Seattle starts with a base deal for $43 million over the next three seasons. Following the 2021 season, the team can trigger a four-year, $66 million extension. If the Mariners decline the extension, Kikuchi can either pick up a $13 million option for 2022 or become a free agent.
What to expect: We shall see. While Kikuchi doesn’t have the hype Yu Darvish or Shohei Ohtani had when coming to the majors, he has shown an ability to dominate in the NBP but also battled shoulder problems. In 2017, the left-hander used a high-90s fastball to lead the Pacific League in ERA and finish second in strikeouts.
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