NEW YORK — Through the first two-plus weeks of the regular season, Gary Sánchez has been one of the Yankees' most reliable contributors at the plate.
After taking a foul tip off his right hand in the fourth inning on Saturday, leaving the game with a contusion on his right index and middle fingers, New York's backstop is day-to-day.
Rays right fielder Randy Arozarena got a piece of a 1-1 changeup from left-hander Jordan Montgomery, sending a foul ball down to Sánchez's lap. The backstop was resting his right hand below the belt, taking the foul tip squarely off his fingers.
Visibly in pain, crouching on the dirt, Sánchez was visited by manager Aaron Boone and a trainer. After several minutes, the catcher was cleared to stay in the game, but he didn't continue to play for long.
After flying out to center field to lead off the next inning, backup catcher Kyle Higashioka came in replacing Sánchez as a defensive substitution. An X-ray on Sánchez's hand shortly after he was taken out of the game came back negative.
"I definitely feel better right now than when it happened," Sánchez said after the 6-3 loss to Tampa Bay. "I've gotten more movement in my fingers. Definitely feel much better right now. And if I keep improving the way I'm improving right now, I might be ready to play tomorrow."
Sánchez added that following his at-bat, he began to feel some swelling in his hand. That's when he began to lose mobility, resulting in a conversation with members of the training staff and his eventual substitution out of the game.
As much as Sánchez feels like he can potentially play as soon as Sunday, Boone already had announced postgame that Higashioka would start behind the plate in the series finale—with ace Gerrit Cole on the mound—heading into an off day on Monday.
"My feeling is—I haven't seen Gary yet after the game—later in the game he was already feeling better," Boone said. "So I think my expectation would be that he'll be back in there after the off day."
Higashioka is the only other catcher available on New York's 40-man roster, so a corresponding move would be necessary if Sánchez ends up needing to miss more time. Robinson Chirinos is still working back from a fractured wrist, so veteran Rob Brantly—who showed some power during spring training—could be the next in line for playing time if necessary.
That said, it seems like this was a best-case scenario for the Yankees.
Entering play on Saturday, in 11 games, Sánchez is hitting .243/.349/.432 with two home runs, five runs and four RBI. Coming off a disappointing campaign in 2020, the backstop has shown improvements on both sides of the ball early on. Sure, those aren't earth-shattering numbers, but they're better than most position players on this team to start the year considering how much this order has struggled over the last several games.
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