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Gary Sanchez to make spring debut, bats cleanup for Yankees

Sanchez joins Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton in the heart of the order.

MLB: Spring Training-Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Later today, Gary Sanchez will make his first appearance in a Grapefruit League game this year. The Yankees catcher eased into spring training after undergoing shoulder surgery in November. He will bat fourth, slotting behind Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton in a fairly representative lineup.

Sanchez, 26, had a nightmare season in 2018. The catcher hit .186/.291/.406 with 18 home runs in an injury-shortened campaign. In addition to the nagging shoulder pain, Sanchez struggled with a groin strain for most of the summer. He also faced intense scrutiny from fans regarding his defense and hustle.

For his part, Sanchez appears to have moved on from the season. “I’m just focusing on the positive things and the future,’’ he told reporters when camp opened last month. “There’s no reason to keep dwelling on the past and a bad year. To be honest with you, I’ve forgotten about last year already.’’

Fans have a number of reasons to be optimistic regarding Sanchez. For the first time in about a year he’s healthy. Shoulder pain can drastically diminish a batter’s game, as evidenced by his 89 wRC+. That fell noticeably shy of the 129 wRC+ he put up in 2017.

Sanchez also has the confidence of the front office and team manager. Brian Cashman reportedly declined involving the catcher in trade scenarios, including frequently rumored ones involving then-Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto.

“We’re not talking about Gary Sanchez with anybody, although I’ve been asked,” Cashman told reporters in December. “Teams have asked, and if people have connections with those teams, they’ll say yeah, we asked and we were told immediately that we’re not moving Gary Sanchez.”

Here’s the full lineup for this evening’s game against the Orioles:

Although Sanchez’s debut won’t be televised, Pinstripe Alley will have a game thread and recap so you can follow the action.