2/28/2014 11:38 A.M. ET
Sanchez focuses on improving overall game
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Gary Sanchez, the Yankees' top prospect, was at his home in the Dominican Republic when he saw on TV that Brian McCann had agreed to a five-year, $85 million contract, immediately answering a need behind the plate for the big league squad.
Just a few weeks away from celebrating his 21st birthday, Sanchez said that he did not panic. That decision was out of his control, and Sanchez said that his response would be to stay focused on his own game.
"I never thought of it as any sort of danger or anything to my own future with the team," Sanchez said through an interpreter. "I never saw that."
Rated as the Yankees' No. 1 overall prospect by MLB.com, Sanchez launched a solo home run in New York's 7-4 win over the Tigers on Friday, offering a reminder of the raw power that prompted the Yankees to give him a $3 million signing bonus in 2009.
"It was my very first Spring Training home run," said Sanchez, who hit the line-drive shot to left off Detroit's Jose Ortega. "It was very good."
Sanchez hit 15 home runs last season, playing 94 games at Class A Tampa and 23 more at Double-A Trenton, where he is likely to begin the 2014 campaign. Overall, Sanchez batted .253 with a .324 on-base percentage and a .412 slugging percentage, and said that he has been trying to polish himself behind the plate.
"I've been working a lot on blocking and throwing and catching balls," Sanchez said. "Every aspect of my defense, I think, could be improved."
Having McCann in the starting role, plus Francisco Cervelli, Austin Romine and John Ryan Murphy -- all of whom spent time in the big leagues last year -- raises the possibility that Sanchez could be dangled as trade bait to fill other needs.
"I can't think about that," Sanchez said. "I can only focus on my own game."
Sanchez's home run on Friday landed on a grassy berm beyond the left-field wall, where it was quickly snatched up by a sunbathing fan. Sanchez said that he did not ask anyone to try and secure the ball as a souvenir.
"No, I'm going to get the one I hit at Yankee Stadium," Sanchez said.
McCann quickly showing slugging prowess
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Brian McCann doesn't usually start hitting home runs until later in the spring, so the Yankees catcher hopes that it is a good sign that he has already cleared the fences in his new uniform.
McCann launched a second-inning solo homer off reigning Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer in the Yankees' 7-4 victory over the Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium on Friday, a towering blast to right field that struck the batting cages about 20 feet beyond the wall.
"I knew I hit that one pretty good," McCann said. "I don't know if I've ever hit a home run this early in camp. I got in a good count [2-0] and got a pitch middle. I was happy with the result, with the swing I put on it."
Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter playfully tried to deke McCann, settling on the warning track and acting like he was camped over the ball. McCann said that he wasn't fooled, and Scherzer said that he'd thrown a cookie to a dangerous hitter.
"Right down the middle," Scherzer said. "It was 2-0, so I said, 'Let's see how hard you can hit it.' And he hit it out."
McCann's power was a major reason why the Yankees pursued him aggressively this winter, giving the seven-time All-Star a five-year, $85 million contract.
It was an area of major need, as New York's catchers combined to slug a Major League-low eight home runs in 2013. McCann hit at least 20 homers in seven of the last eight seasons while playing for the Braves.
"That's one of the reasons we brought him here," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Not just to add from the catching standpoint, but to add offensively, and he has that ability."
While McCann is honing his swing to assault the short porch in the Bronx, he is also continuing to work behind the plate, learning a completely new pitching staff. McCann said that it won't be an issue to get both jobs done during Spring Training.
"This is the only year I probably won't complain about it being too long," McCann said. "I'm going to use all eight weeks down here to get to know these pitchers. It's going to be good, a good eight weeks."
Joba reflects fondly on time with Yankees
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Getting settled in his new camp this spring, one of the first things that Joba Chamberlain did was peek at the schedule to see when he and the Tigers were going to visit the Bronx.
"It'll be August; yep," Chamberlain said. "Four-game series, Monday through Thursday. I haven't looked, though, in a couple weeks."
Chamberlain, 28, already looks the part of a motivated, freshly-minted ex-Yankee: he is about 20 pounds lighter, sporting a full beard and an amusing tattoo on his pitching arm that transformed a Tommy John surgery scar into a smiley face.
"I got it last year," Chamberlain said. "I guess when you're pitching terrible, nobody notices."
The one-time phenom will try to take advantage of a change of scenery this season as he closes the book on his eventful Yankees career. Chamberlain signed a one-year, $2.5 million deal with Detroit and hopes to serve as the setup man for closer Joe Nathan.
"I spent my whole adult life in a Yankee uniform," Chamberlain said. "My son [Karter] got to see a lot of stuff in New York. New York was home. We closed the old stadium, opened the new stadium, got to win a World Series. You go through the ups and the downs and everything that happened. I'm just so thankful for the opportunity. It was an awesome experience."
Chamberlain burst onto the scene as a rookie callup in 2007, helping Joe Torre's Yankees into the postseason before they ran into the Indians and a swarm of Lake Erie midges.
The Yankees bounced Chamberlain between the rotation and the bullpen for two years before he became a reliever for good in 2010. Reconstructive elbow surgery in '11 and a gruesome '12 ankle injury slowed the right-hander's final years in New York.
"This is a guy who came up and had a ton of success and went through some pretty serious injuries," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "It was difficult on him and it was difficult on us because we had high expectations for him. He had some difficult injuries that he had to overcome. It's good to see that he's healthy and feeling good. Maybe it will be good for him."
Perhaps Chamberlain will be remembered most for his "Joba Rules" and the many T-shirts they spawned. Those may now be permanently in storage, but Chamberlain hopes that he will receive a positive reception when the Tigers get to Yankee Stadium.
"I couldn't thank the fans enough," Chamberlain said. "They're a huge part of me being there and the success that I've had. I can only hope for the best. I gave them everything I [had] every time. Sometimes it was short, sometimes I was terrible. I'll be the first one to admit it. But I had a great run and I was very thankful for all the fans that were there."
• Adam Warren pitched two scoreless innings of two-hit ball on Friday against the Tigers, kicking off his spring bid to stick on the Yankees' big league roster. Warren said that he and good friend David Phelps have been amused by being lumped together in yet another competition.
"We joke about it a little bit," Warren said. "Sometimes people expect us to be clashing and enemies, and we joke about it, 'We're supposed to hate each other, right?' But no, other than joking around about it, we don't seriously talk about it. We know we're supposed to just go out there and get the job done."
• Right-hander Michael Pineda is slowly advancing to game speed. Pineda is scheduled to pitch in a simulated game on Sunday and will then progress to pitching in a Grapefruit League game, Girardi said.
"He's better than when we saw him a couple of years ago, that's for sure," Girardi said. "So we have been encouraged. I'm curious to see how it translates in a game."
• Girardi stuck out during pregame ceremonies at Joker Marchant Stadium on Friday. He had brought the wrong uniform top for the trip, sporting a home spring jersey with the interlocking 'NY' on the left chest instead of the road version with a gray-outlined 'NEW YORK' across the chest.
"I noticed it right away when I was out there. What are you going to do?" Girardi said. "They need to help me a little more, evidently. During the season, you don't have two to pick from in your locker. I put the wrong pants on to start the day."
• The MRIs taken Thursday on right-hander Jose Ramirez's oblique and back came back with no reason for concern, Girardi said. Ramirez is still sore and it is too soon to tell when he will be able to get back on the mound.
• 21st Century Fox announced on Friday that it completed the acquisition of a majority stake in the YES Network. Under the agreement, which was initially announced on Jan. 24, 21st Century Fox now owns 80 percent of the network. Yankee Global Enterprises continues to own the remaining 20 percent.