Gary Sanchez on bench for Yankees-Red Sox wild-card game

BOSTON — It’s the playoffs, so that means Gary Sanchez is back on the bench.

Aaron Boone confirmed Kyle Higashioka will start behind the plate with Gerrit Cole on the mound when the Yankees face the Red Sox in the AL wild-card game Tuesday at Fenway Park.

When asked if Sanchez might be considered as a DH — since Giancarlo Stanton is now a viable option in the outfield — Boone said that was unlikely.

“No, it means he’s potentially a bat off the bench,” Boone said Monday at Fenway Park, where the Yankees were scheduled to work out before rain changed those plans.

“But … we’ll talk through it and potentially DH. But no, probably a bat off the bench.”

Sanchez has slumped badly down the stretch, going just 2-for-22 with three walks and 13 strikeouts in his last eight games. He’s also hitless in his last 13 plate appearances, with a pair of walks and eight strikeouts.

A year ago, Sanchez started just two of the Yankees’ seven playoff games, which led to much offseason speculation about his future in The Bronx — a discussion that will resume whenever this season ends.

Higashioka said the opportunity to start in the postseason again “means a lot.”

Gary Sanchez
Corey Sipkin

But he doesn’t expect to do anything different than during the regular season.

“No, just because in the regular season, I treat every game as a must-win,’’ Higashioka said. “So here, every game really is a must-win.”

Gleyber Torres served as the leadoff hitter in each of the final three regular season games after DJ LeMahieu went down with a sports hernia that landed him on the injured list. Since LeMahieu will be unavailable again Tuesday, Boone said he was leaning toward putting Torres at the top of the lineup again against the Red Sox.

“As I’m sitting here right now, I’m thinking probably Gleyber [will lead off],’’ Boone said.

The manager added he still needed to consult his coaching staff to “see exactly the way I want to go, but I think there’s a good chance it will be Gleyber.’’

In 19 games since moving from shortstop to second base, Torres went 21-for-70 with four doubles, two homers and six RBIs to go along with eight walks and 15 strikeouts and an .815 OPS.

His OPS was just .676 before the switch.

Boone said Luke Voit was placed on the 60-day IL to give the Yankees more roster flexibility, with the “reality that he wasn’t going to be in play for us” after being sidelined again by left knee inflammation.

It opened up a spot for right-hander Brody Koerner, whose contract was selected and he was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

The Yankees dropped their first seven meetings against the Red Sox this season — and also won the last six between the two teams.

Boone had a simple explanation for the disparity.

“I think we are a better team and are playing better when we’ve played them more recently and I think in those first … seven, probably a handful of them were really competitive games that didn’t go our way,’’ Boone said. “But I feel like a couple of those times maybe we weren’t playing at our best. I think part of that is us kind of righting the ship a little bit here, especially in the second half of the season.”

After playing a wild-card round and ALDS in front of no fans last season due to COVID restrictions, Boone is looking forward to a packed house Tuesday night — even if it is at Fenway.

“I think the last couple times we’ve been here, when we came here in the summer and then obviously last week, you know, there’s a buzz here,” Boone said. “It matters here. It’s fun to compete in games here. It’s tough to compete in games here. Yeah, I think there will be some tension, electricity. Everything you could hope for for a winner-take-all game in the playoffs and to two outstanding franchises and teams.”


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