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Around the Empire: Yankees news - 3/8/21

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Aaron Judge predicts a big season for Gary Sánchez; Austin Wells impressing the coaches; Zack Britton coming back slowly after January battle with COVID-19; three MLB players suspended by teams for violating protocols

MLB: New York Yankees-Workouts Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Yahoo! Sports | Ryan Morik: Many Yankees fans — and, given reports that the team had considered non-tendering him in December, the Yankees themselves — have been fairly down on catcher Gary Sánchez, and for good reason. But do you know who isn’t? Aaron Judge, that’s who. Praising the catcher’s work ethic and physical ability, the Yankees’ outfielder did not simply predict a bounce-back season from the Kraken, but said that Sánchez is going to “go out there and win AL MVP.”

NJ.com | Brendan Kuty: Gary Sánchez is not the only Yankees catcher turning heads in Tampa. Although he has yet to play in a professional regular game, last year’s first-round pick Austin Wells has captured the attention of the coaching staff, with catching coach Tanner Swanson even calling him “the gold standard.” While his power from the left side of the plate was already known, there was more than a few questions surrounding his ability to remain behind the plate. According to Swanson, however, Wells is “more than an adequate defender” who has “seen tremendous strides” since joining the organization. We won’t see him in a regular season game this year, but that’s a good sign that we will one day see him in the Bronx.

New York Post | Dan Martin: Yankees reliever Zack Britton has yet to make his spring training debut, and has not thrown off a mound in over a week. Any fans worried about an arm injury, however, need not be. Britton has been taking it slow in spring training after COVID-19 “hit [him] pretty good” in early January and caused him to lose “a good amount of weight.” Despite the slow start to the spring, Britton is confident that he’ll be ready for Opening Day.

Other news in this article include the fact that Gerrit Cole and other pitchers have noted that the new balls are “more consistent” than the ones used in the last few seasons, while Clarke Schmidt is at least a week away from returning to the mound after suffering a common extensor tendon strain.

CBS Sports | Matt Snyder: We conclude today with some news that, although not directly related to the Yankees, is something that we should keep an eye on. Cleveland’s José Ramírez and Franmil Reyes, and Chicago’s Pedro Strop have been suspended by their teams for violating COVID-19 protocols. This might not seem like a big deal, since we’re still in spring training, but it’s not a good omen if players are already failing to adhere to the protocols.

Please, everybody: be careful, be safe, and wear a mask.