Yankees manager Aaron Boone confirmed Monday that Kyle Higashioka will catch for Gerrit Cole in Game 1 of the American League Wild Card Series against Cleveland. Starting catcher Gary Sanchez will be available off the bench.
With Higashioka catching, Cole is 3-1 with a 1.00 ERA with 34 strikeouts. When Sanchez is catching, Cole is 4-2 with a 3.91 ERA, 12 walks and an opponent OPS of .776. Cole's last start of the regular season on Tuesday, against the Blue Jays, was the fourth consecutive time that Higashioka was paired with him.
The announcement isn't entirely a surprise, considering the fact that general manager Brian Cashman told reporters Higashioka was going to be paired with Cole and Boone has hinted at splitting catching duties between Higashioka and Sanchez during the playoffs. But, the move serves as another stark reminder of Sanchez's struggles this year.
Sanchez, 27, finished the 60-game regular season with miserable numbers at the plate.
Sanchez had just 10 hits in his last 70 at-bats and finished the regular season with a .147/.253/.365 slash line and .618 OPS. Just three times this season was Sanchez able to record two hits in a game. Sanchez's contact percentage of 68.4 percent and strikeout percentage of 36 percent are his worst marks since making his MLBdebut in 2016. The short sample size because of the abbreviated season should be noted. Meanwhile, Higashioka has made an impact with his increased playing time, posting a .256/.256/.590 in September.