NEW YORK -- Assuming the New York Yankees play a ballgame Friday night -- the forecast calls for rain through 7 p.m. -- fans will get a look at two of the most highly touted prospects in their organization. Luis Severino, who has struggled in his sophomore season, will start against the Chicago White Sox, the American League's best team so far this season.
And batting sixth in the Yankees batting order will be Gary Sanchez, rated the No. 3 prospect in their system. Sanchez is a catcher but was called up from Triple-A Scranton Thursday night to serve as a right-handed DH while Alex Rodriguez is on the disabled list.
Sanchez, 23, has been in the Yankees system since he was 16, and was widely expected to win the backup catcher's job this spring. But he had a dismal camp and was leapfrogged by Austin Romine, who himself had fallen behind John Ryan Murphy on the Yankees depth chart the previous spring only to rebound this March.
The Yankees are hoping it will be a similar situation with Sanchez, who had two big league at-bats last year as a September call-up.
"I think he has improved a lot," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Sanchez, who was hitting .288 with five home runs and 21 RBIs for Scranton. "And I think he’ll continue to improve the more he plays."
Girardi said he believed Sanchez's poor spring -- he batted .091 with just two hits in 22 at-bats -- was a product of nerves and that old baseball standby, trying too hard.
"Probably a guy trying to do too much in spring training," Girardi said. "That happens. It happens all the time. The key is that he learned from that, like an Austin Romine did, and then you just go out and relax and be yourself today."
Girardi has done Sanchez no favors as the White Sox are starting lefty Chris Sale, who is 7-0 with a 1.79 ERA and has held opposing hitters to a .165 batting average. When asked why the Yankees promoted Sanchez over outfielder Aaron Judge, who is batting .265 and leads the RailRiders with seven home runs, or Rob Refsnyder, who is hitting .287, Girardi said, "Well, I think that was the recommendation of our people. Obviously, I have not been down there to watch these three young players play. I have seen highlights of what they’ve been doing, but the recommendation was that he’s been swinging the bat well, and if we were going to DH, that would be the guy."
Severino, who opened eyes with his 97 mph fastball and sharp breaking stuff in 67 innings last year, has yet to win a game this season; he is 0-5 with a 6.12 ERA. But Girardi said he had seen improvement in Severino's last start, in which he allowed three home runs, two by David Ortiz, in a 5-1 loss to the Red Sox last Sunday.
"We’d love to see him put it all together," Girardi said. "I think it’s important. I know he’s frustrated with where he’s at, but I think he’s a lot closer and we’re pleased with the progress that he’s making. This game isn’t easy, and people make adjustments to you and it’s important that you adjust too."