CARLSBAD, Calif. — Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez will have surgery next week to remove tissue from his left shoulder but is expected to be ready for opening day, General Manager Brian Cashman said on Wednesday.
Sanchez, who is right-handed, has been plagued by intermittent irritation in his shoulder since 2017. He had one cortisone shot a year ago and two more this season, but the Yankees believed that the problem would subside with some rest at the end of the season.
However, when Sanchez began working out again last week in Tampa, Fla., he complained of irritation.
“We could continue with the conservative treatment, play it out and hope it would get better,” Cashman said. “But we’re going to go the other route and get ahead of it.”
The recovery time for the operation is three months, which would coincide with the mid-February start of spring training, but Cashman said the Yankees would be cautious with Sanchez to ensure he is ready for opening day.
It is the third off-season operation for a Yankee, after shortstop Didi Gregorius’s right elbow procedure that is expected to sideline him most of the season and pitcher C. C. Sabathia’s cleanup operation on his degenerative right knee.
If Sanchez is not ready for opening day, Cashman said the Yankees would be comfortable using the two catchers who filled in for him last season — Austin Romine and Kyle Higashioka, who spent most of the season at Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Sanchez endured a disappointing season in 2018, batting just .186 with a .697 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. He also had two stints on the disabled list with a groin injury, and he had some prominent defensive lapses behind the plate, leading the majors with 18 passed balls despite catching only 76 games.
Sanchez had a mild awakening in the playoffs, hitting two home runs in the Yankees’ lone victory over Boston in Game 2 of an American League division series.
Cashman said the injury may have contributed to Sanchez’s poor performance.
“It would bother him from time to time,” Cashman said. “When it did, he would complain about it. He would get assessed. We’ve done M.R.I.s that didn’t show anything overtly, so obviously there was some treatment that came from it — the injections. But it’s lingered. We thought he’d have no problem in the winter with rest.”
After the Yankees’ season ended with a playoff loss to the Red Sox — Sanchez’s fly ball to the warning track in the ninth inning came a few feet short of sending the Yankees to a decisive Game 5 in the series — Sanchez had looked forward to a fresh start next season.
“For me, a tough year, a lot of ups and downs throughout the whole season,” he said that night through an interpreter. “For me, not a good year based on my standards. We’ve got to look forward to the season, work on what I have to improve.”
Now, that work will have to wait. Instead, he will be focusing on rehabilitation.