Yankees C Sanchez hoping to return by playoffs

ByMarly Rivera ESPN logo
Monday, September 23, 2019

TAMPA -- Gary Sanchez is hopeful that he'll be able to return to the New York Yankees' lineup sooner than later, but the All-Star catcher is being cautious as the regular season winds down.

Sánchez has been sidelined since September 12, when he suffered a left groin strain in the second game of a doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers as he was thrown out in an attempt to steal his first base of the season.

"Right now with everything I've done, I feel better," Sanchez said after a full workout day at the Yankees' minor league complex in Tampa on Monday. "Hopefully in the next few days, with all I have to do, and after working with the trainers, I can feel the way I feel now."

Sanchez, who missed 16 games earlier this season also due to a strained left groin, worked out under the supervision of hitting coach Marcus Thames and head athletic trainer Steve Donohue. The Yankees traveled Sunday night to Tampa ahead of a two-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays, which starts on Tuesday.

"I ran the bases a bit; played some defense too. I took regular batting practice in the cage and I took BP outside. I feel good," Sanchez added. "Everything I have done has gone well. There have been no problems at all. We have to wait to see how things go in the next couple of days."

For the Yankees -- who established a new major league record by sending 31 players to the injured list this season -- not having Sanchez has been a blow down the stretch after having lost outfielders Mike Tauchman and Aaron Hicks for the year.

Even though the Yankees already locked up home-field advantage for the American League Division Series, they are still battling the Houston Astros for the best record in the majors.

Nonetheless, Sanchez told ESPN he doesn't feel any pressure to return this week and his focus is solely on being healthy for the postseason. When healthy, Sanchez has enjoyed an extremely productive season, slashing .233/.318/.531 with 34 home runs through 104 games.

"I was always hopeful, from day one, that I would be back," Sanchez told ESPN. "I knew that because our trainers do tremendous work and I knew they were going to be able to put me in the position of how I feel right now. I feel very good, and all I need is to be ready for the playoffs."

Designated hitterEdwin Encarnacion, who is rehabbing a left internal oblique strain he also suffered during the Detroit series, was also at the team's minor league complex on Monday. Encarnacion, who ran, played catch, and took batting practice, told ESPN that he was feeling good and expected to play in the second game of the Tampa series.

During their last home stand, manager Aaron Boone said that Encarnacion should be able to return to the lineup during their end-of-the-season road trip, which includes the two games in Tampa and three against the Rangers in Arlington.

"I feel pretty good that it will certainly be the games in Arlington, it could even be Tampa," Boone said. "We'll see how these next few days go. [Encarnacion] is doing pretty well, so we'll see whether it's midweek or the weekend; feel like he's on track for that."

When it came to Sanchez, the Yankees' manager refused to set a timeline for a possible return.

"I don't think he's on as fast a track as Edwin," Boone said, "but I'm feeling more confident certainly by the playoffs and hopefully at some point maybe in that final series he could get in."

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