New York Yankees' Brian McCann greets Gary Sanchez (24) after scoring on Sanchez's fourth-inning home run in a baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays in New York, Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2016. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Kathy Willens
August 21, 2016

HOUSTON (AP) Gary Sanchez has quickly supplanted seven-time All-Star Brian McCann as the New York Yankees' top catcher.

The 23-year-old hit his fifth home run since he was brought up on Aug. 3, his fourth in four games, during the Yankees' 7-4 loss to Toronto on Wednesday.

Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner, speaking at the owners' meetings in Houston, said general manager Brian Cashman and manager Joe Girardi will decide the future of McCann, who is signed through 2018.

''It was always the case that Sanchez at some point was going to come up and hopefully come up to stay,'' Steinbrenner said. ''So we'll cross that bridge in the offseason when we come to it. But McCann's a great player, too, so we'll just have to figure that out.''

Carlos Beltran was traded to Texas and Alex Rodriguez was released as part of the Yankees' recent youth movement, and McCann is the latest veteran to lose playing time.

Sanchez, who made a one-game call-up as a designated hitter in May, has started seven of 14 games behind the plate since he rejoined the Yankees this month and has been the DH for six more. McCann has caught just twice since then and been the DH seven times, while backup catcher Austin Romine has been behind the plate five times.

McCann called Sanchez ''one of the better, if not the best, young catchers since I've been in the big leagues.'' He understands what Girardi is doing with Sanchez, whose defense improved considerably this year while at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

''He told us it's the time when he's going to play and play a lot,'' McCann said. ''Listen, he's a future All-Star, year in and year out. There are not many guys walking around with that talent. It's going to be nice seeing him grow into that player.''

Thus far with the Yankees, Sanchez is hitting .360 with 11 RBIs in 53 plate appearances, bringing energy to the lineup along with right fielder Aaron Judge and first baseman Tyler Austin, who homered back-to-back in their big league debuts Saturday.

McCann is batting .231 this season with 15 homers and 45 RBIs. He was born in Athens, Georgia, went to high school in Duluth and could be sought by the Atlanta Braves, who drafted him in 2002. He made all his All-Star appearances with Atlanta, then left after the 2013 season to sign an $85 million, five-year deal with the Yankees.

McCann wouldn't discuss the future, saying ''I'm not going to get into all that.''

His contract includes salaries of $17 million in each of the next two seasons and a $15 million club option for 2019 with no buyout. The option would become guaranteed if McCann has 1,000 plate appearances combined in 2017-18 and makes 90 starts at catcher in 2018 and is not on the disabled list at the end of the season. If the option becomes guaranteed, McCann can void it.

Sanchez was bumped up to the cleanup spot for the first time Wednesday, with Judge right behind him.

''It says that they've handled whatever we've given them so far,'' Girardi said. ''Obviously, these are two young men that have the ability to be very productive. Some guys out of the lineup today, we moved them up against the lefty, let them go get it. Obviously, your hope is over time they can become middle-of-the-order hitters.''

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AP Baseball Writer Mike Fitzpatrick and AP freelance writer Doug Gould contributed to this report from New York.

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