It would appear the New York Yankees have found a good use for playing the hot hand in Tuesday’s game against the Orioles.
Yes, they’ve made a knee-jerk move with more justification than batting Rougned Odor cleanup.
Last week against the Cleveland Indians, “backup” catcher Kyle Higashioka participated in two of the team’s three victories, hitting a rally-starting double in the opener before socking a home run late to pad a lead.
Gary Sanchez? Since the season’s first week, he hasn’t been particularly scary, leading to Gerrit Cole unofficially getting his personal catcher back thanks to a series of clever manipulations of the schedule.
Now, as of Tuesday, the team’s whole process is a bit more out in the open.
Higashioka gets the start in Game 2 at Camden Yards after New York dropped the opener to fall to 9-13.
Why? He’s played better than Sanchez has, a fact Aaron Boone relayed to both players prior to this lineup switch.
The Yankees are taking Kyle Higashioka vs. Gary Sanchez day-by-day.
Everything Higashioka has earned Sanchez has given away in recent weeks. Despite starting the season as a productive power bat amid a sea of underperformers, the former All-Star catcher is just 1 for his last 21 (.048) with eight strikeouts, harkening back to his extreme struggles in 2020.
And the second half of 2019. And 2018.
Power is purportedly Sanchez’s calling card, but it’s all but vanished in recent years unless a pitch is placed on a tee for him. Over the past two seasons, he’s hit well under .200 against fastballs, which used to be his bread and butter.
Make no mistake — unlike the “Romine vs. Sanchez” years, the Yankees really are attempting to juggle both players in semi-starting roles at this point. This is a genuine demotion for Sanchez, which Boone relayed to him prior to Tuesday’s game.
The idealized version of Sanchez, the 30-homer threat we watched emerge in 2017, isn’t some nebulous definition of a “losing” player, an archetype that may or may not exist.
The problem is the Yankees rarely see that guy anymore, and have instead been catering to a net negative for the better part of two years now.
Higashioka may not be a long-term solution, but both he and Sanchez know who holds the upper hand right now. This isn’t an answer to all 35 problems currently afflicting the Yankees, but it’s certainly a tangible move in the right direction, as well as an acknowledgment that things aren’t just one lucky break away from falling into place for the whole lineup.