|© MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.|
Sanchez homers in third straight game08/03/2011 10:53 PM ET
By Danny Wild / MLB.com
When the Yankees sent Gary Sanchez to Tampa in late May, it wasn't exactly the promotion the young catcher was looking for.
Sanchez, MLB.com's No. 39 prospect who hit .353 last season, said his trip to extended spring training following an attitude problem was "a reality check."
"I'm keeping focused now. Before this month, I was letting small things get to me," Sanchez said Wednesday through teammate Manny Barreda, who served as a translator. "I wouldn't get a hit and I would let that bring me down."
This month, Sanchez is on a mission to put a slow start behind him. On Wednesday, he slugged a pair of longballs to extend his homer streak to three games and drove in all of Charleston's runs in the Class A River Dogs' 7-3 loss at Asheville.
The 18-year-old backstop has plated 13 runs in his last nine games and has his average up to .251, the highest it's been since June.
The journey, especially after his success last summer, has been a humbling one for Sanchez, who signed with the Yankees for $3 million in July 2009 as a 16-year-old international free agent.
"I'm keeping the same approach and staying focused throughout the game," he said.
After tearing up the New York-Penn League with a .353 average last year, Sanchez began his first full Minor League season at Charleston this spring. He struggled early, hitting .209 with one homer in April.
The native of the Dominican Republic lost playing time to J.R. Murphy and, according to the New York Daily News, refused to play as a backup or warm up pitchers in the bullpen. The Yankees sent him to their Florida complex on May 21, and kept him there until June 4.
"It was a realty check going down there, especially seeing how hot it is down there," Sanchez said. "At first, it was a struggle, but I've never gone through failure before. I wasn't doing as well as I did in the past, that was the biggest thing. To adapt to playing time and coming out and playing every day is a new thing."
Sanchez appears to have made the transition -- he went 3-for-5 with a homer on Aug. 1, went deep again and walked on Tuesday and collected three more hits on Wednesday. He launched a two-run shot in the sixth inning and a solo homer in the eighth, giving him a share of the team lead with 14.
"I feel great, really focused up there, seeing the ball well," Sanchez said. "And I'm more focused than ever."
He'll need to be. The Yankees boast one of the most talented crops of Minor League catchers in baseball, with Sanchez, Jesus Montero and Austin Romine all vying for a chance to reach the Bronx first. Montero is generally considered to be the best hitter of the trio, while Sanchez and Romine are noted for their defense.
Sanchez said he's been working hard behind the plate.
"I'm working on everything, blocking and game-calling, just receiving and trying to not do too much," he said. "Keep the ball in front and keep the glove where it's supposed to be."
Sanchez's 13th homer came off Tourists starter Josh Mueller after Ramon Flores hit a two-out single.
"I'm just trying to make contact, hit it up the middle, and that's what I've been talking about with my hitting coach [Greg Colbrunn]," he said. "Just hitting up the middle and making good contact."
Sanchez said he followed the same approach in the eighth, when he took Kraig Sitton deep to right with the bases empty.
"Just trying to get on base, wasn't thinking about home runs today," he explained. "I made solid contact and they were both were over the right-field wall, so I was thinking up the middle."