Gary Sanchez Benched for 1 Game by Yankees over Poor Defense

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistAugust 6, 2017

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 29: Gary Sanchez #24 of the New York Yankees looks on during a game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium on July 29, 2017 in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Yankees defeated the Rays 5-4. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi benched catcher Gary Sanchez for Sunday's game against the Cleveland Indians, citing Sanchez's poor defense.

"The start is not the message," Girardi said, per ESPN.com's Andrew Marchand. "The message came from us verbally that, 'Your defense needs to improve. That you need to get better. You need to work at it.' We have stressed how important it is. There are certain situations that some people may not think that something that happens in the game affects the next game. It could if it leads to 10 extra pitches for a reliever."

Sanchez is one of the better offensive catchers in MLB. Through 77 games, he's slugging .488 with 17 home runs and 52 RBI.

Sanchez's defense has been another story. According to Baseball Prospectus, he's 13th in framing runs (4.0) and 81st in blocking runs (minus-1.3), the latter of which was a big reason for his benching.

Sanchez allowed Austin Jackson to score Cleveland's second run in the Indians' 7-2 win on Friday, bringing his passed ball total to a league-high 12 in 2017.

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"He needs to improve. Bottom line," Girardi said after the game, per the New York Daily News' Mike Mazzeo. "... He's late getting down. That's what I see sometimes, and it's something we've been working on and we continue to work on. He's capable of doing a better job."

The Yankees entered Sunday three games behind the Boston Red Sox in the American League East and 1.5 ahead of the Kansas City Royals, who own the second wild-card spot in the AL.

While Girardi wants to see better defense from Sanchez, he'll have to balance that with the need for Sanchez to be a part of the lineup. The Yankees offense is far better with Sanchez than with Austin Romine.

Girardi opted to use Brett Gardner as the team's designated hitter Sunday and explained why he doesn't plan on using Sanchez there often.

"I think if he catches to his ability, then we can DH other people and have his bat in the lineup," Girardi said, per Marchand. "I think that is where we will be at our best."

Despite him being a defensive liability at times, the Yankees have little choice but to rely on Sanchez as their everyday catcher as they make their push for the playoffs.

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