With Yankees batting practice now viewed as must-see entertainment for fans (and a handful of players), Gary Sanchez sort of feels like a third wheel.
Since full-squad workouts began on Monday in Tampa, the majority of cameras and phones have been following New York’s behemoth sluggers, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge. With admirable ease, the duo managed to put some dents into Steinbrenner Field’s left-center field scoreboard and right field bleachers during Monday’s first batting practice session, which reportedly drew over a thousand spectators.
Although Sanchez, who’s arguably the Yankees’ most well-rounded hitter, finished last season with 33 home runs in just 122 games (he also defeated Stanton in the first round of last July’s Home Run Derby), he can’t help but express slight jealousy when paired with the coined “Towers of Power.”
“What can you say? Those guys hit moon shots and mine barely go over the fence,’’ Sanchez told George King of the New York Post. “It’s fun to see our fans come out and support us. Whenever you have Giancarlo and Judge hitting long shots, I am watching myself. I am a fan at that time. I know why they want to come out and watch everything.’’
Perhaps Sanchez will occasionally live in the shadows of Judge and Stanton this season, but Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone knows his 25-year-old catcher is accomplished.
“Gary rakes, that’s what I think,’’ Boone told King. “He is special. He gets into that box and I do think he gets overlooked. I can’t wait to see what he is going to do again this year. We are going to work really hard in aiding him and hopefully allow him to continue to get better on both sides of the ball.”
DRURY BOUND FOR THE HOT CORNER?
The Yankees added further depth to their infield on Tuesday night when a three-way trade between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Rays sent 25-year-old infielder Brandon Drury from the desert to the Bronx.
In his first three major league seasons, Drury has slashed .271/.319/.448 with 31 home runs, 71 doubles, 124 RBI, and a .767 OPS in 289 games.
“Oh man, I am pumped and can’t wait to get there,’’ Drury told The Post on Tuesday. “I am thinking about the opportunity I have. Playing for the New York Yankees is a dream and I have to take advantage of it. I was a Yankee fan [as a kid].
“I am a guy hungry to be great. I am going to work hard and focus.’’
With the addition of Drury this spring, the Yankees won’t necessarily have to rush touted youngsters Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres to the big league level. General manager Brian Cashman believes Andujar’s bat is ready for the highest level, but there are still several questions surrounding the 23-year-old’s defense. As for Torres, it seems likely he’ll begin the season in Triple-A, in order to delay his service clock.
Although the Yankees have signed infielders Danny Espinosa and Jace Peterson as spring training invitees, Cashman and his front office have high hopes for Drury, who they believe has a leg-up on others for the third base job.
“He’s someone we’ve been attempting to get for a number of years now,” Cashman told ESPN Radio’s The Michael Kay Show on Wednesday. “He’s someone that’s been on our radar for quite some time. He obviously possesses a great deal of ability. We think his best position is third base… We think he can play some quality defense for us and swing a well enough bat. We think he’s at least an everyday player at the big league level and we think there’s untapped potential there at the same time.
“I think last year proved we’re not afraid to deploy a number of rookies all over the everyday diamond. We just were looking for a circumstance that would better protect us.”
YANKS STILL AN UNDERDOG? CASHMAN THINKS SO
When the Yankees acquired Stanton in a blockbuster deal with the Miami Marlins in December, the Evil Empire was revived, and it seemed as if New York once again had the upperhand on its division rival, the Red Sox.
Despite a rather dormant winter, Boston countered with its own mega deal this week, as free agent outfielder J.D. Martinez agreed to a five-year contract worth $110 million.
Although both teams feature plenty of firepower, Cashman told Mike Mazzeo of the New York Daily News on Wednesday that the Yankees are still the underdog until an AL East pennant returns to the Bronx.
“They’re the AL East champs, so we’re not on equal footing,” Cashman said. “We were the Wild Card. They had the title within the division last year. I don’t know if they’re putting a flag up for it or not, but they are the AL East champs, we are not. So we are not on equal footing until we take that away from them, while at the same time preventing anybody that finished behind us from surpassing us and joining the fray.
“Toronto’s done a lot of work on its roster. Baltimore is starting to make some signs. So, no, we’re not on the same ground because they are the AL East champions, and until someone takes that away from them, you’ve got to pay homage.”
With the Martinez signing, Boston’s payroll is projected at $237 million this season. Meanwhile, the Yankees are striving to get under the $197 million luxury tax threshold in time for next winter’s loaded free agent class.