Everyone around the Yankees, from Aaron Boone to Gerrit Cole to the rest of the starting rotation, is careful not to put down Gary Sanchez. That’s because he’s a hardworking catcher who cares about his pitchers and excels at calling a contemporary game.
“He sticks to the script,” says one opposing manager. “There is value in that. I’d take him five days a week.”
The team still believes in Sanchez as a two-way player, despite trouble blocking balls and deep slumps that have marred much of his past three seasons.
But despite all of that, it’s clear that the pairing of Cole and Kyle Higashioka is working so well that the team would be foolish to change it. In fact, we’re picking up on strong indications that Higashioka is increasingly likely to start Cole’s games in the postseason.
While backup catchers typically take a seat come playoff time, there is precedent for these pairing to continue in October. Braves Hall of Famer Greg Maddux threw to Eddie Perez and Paul Bako in the playoffs, not Javy Lopez. And of course the Yankees sat Jorge Posada in the 2009 postseason in order to pair A.J. Burnett with Jose Molina.
As for Cole, it’s hard to argue against putting a $324 million asset in the best position to succeed. And while he has been publicly complimentary of Sanchez, the results with Higashioka provide an undeniable data point.
Over his past three starts, all with Higashioka catching, Cole has allowed just one earned run in 20 innings (it was also a nice bonus that he hit three home runs in Wednesday’s 13-2 win over Toronto, though no one expects that type of thunder from him going forward). Cole has pitched to Sanchez eight times and posted a 3.91 ERA in those starts.
Cole has worked with personal catchers in the past, notably Chris Stewart in Pittsburgh and Martin Maldonado in Houston. It’s clear that Higashioka, who Cole has known for years, has settled into that role with the Yankees.
It’s likely that everyone, Cole included, will continue to be polite and careful in public about this topic. But we’re also ready to predict that Higashioka will remain in his role in October.