ALLENTOWN — Gary Sanchez was sitting on a table in the corner of the visitors clubhouse at Coca-Cola Park Monday afternoon. Chatting with teammates and coaches, there was a smile stretched across his face.
Monday was a big day for the New York Yankees catcher.
It was the beginning of what will be at the very least a four-game rehab stint with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders as Sanchez continues to work his way back from a right groin strain that has sidelined him since July. What he hoped would be the last step before rejoining the Yankees.
And the 25-year-old catcher got things going with a bang. He took the first pitch he saw from Lehigh Valley IronPigs starting pitcher Drew Anderson deep with a one-out, first-inning solo shot.
Sanchez collected one more hit, a single to left in the fifth, to finish 2-for-4 in seven innings of work as the RailRiders (68-63) beat the IronPigs (79-54), 9-8, in 10.
“I need the most reps I can get,” Sanchez said through an interpreter prior to Monday’s game. “I only played one game in the (Gulf Coast League), so it wasn’t that big of a difference for me. Just need to get more reps in and try and get healthy. It’s good to be back.
“I’m just trying to get back and help (the Yankees).”
After catching seven innings on Monday, Sanchez is set to be the designated hitter Tuesday against the Syracuse Chiefs and then will catch nine innings both Wednesday and Thursday before he’s reevaluated on Friday.
By Friday, Sanchez will have played five games in six days — he played for the Gulf Coast League Yankees East on Saturday — and four games in four straight days.
Sanchez is eager to see how his body responds.
“We’ll see how it goes,” Sanchez said. “I might get a little worn out, but we’re going to play it day-by-day and see how my body feels.”
While this season has been a frustrating one for Sanchez, only playing 66 games thanks to this nagging groin injury, the catcher is excited to rejoin his team.
Considering the Yankees have won eight of their last 10 games and sit 6.5 games behind the first-base Boston Red Sox in the American League East, Sanchez could be the jolt in the arm New York needs to make a final push for the pennant.
“No player wants to be in the position I’m in. All I want to worry about is trying to get healthy and trying to get back with the team,” Sanchez said. “It’s nothing I wanted to happen or anything that was in my control. I’m just taking it day-by-day.
“I’m happy that my teammates are actually doing well. I’m happy they’re contributing and helping the team win. For me, right now, I’m just concentrating on getting back and getting healthy and helping the cause.”
Berry joins RailRiders
The RailRiders received an injection of speed to their lineup on Monday.
Quintin Berry, who was released by Triple-A Colorado Springs on Thursday, signed a minor-league contract with the Yankees and was assigned to the RailRiders.
Not only does the 33-year-old outfielder add speed to the RailRiders — he’s stolen 399 career bases — but has played 781 of his 1,120 career minor league games at center field. With the losses of Clint Frazier, Shane Robinson and even Billy McKinney, the RailRiders don’t roster a true center fielder, currently.
“He’s fast. That’s good,” RailRiders manager Bobby Mitchell said. “Really need some speed and (the Yankees) signed him for a reason — I’m assuming. So he’ll come here and maybe he’ll be that guy that goes up there in September and helps them steal bags whenever they need it. I don’t know. I’m kind of speculating, but his speed is his major asset. We’re happy to have him. He’ll help. “
Berry pinch-ran and later scored during the 10th inning of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s win against the IronPigs.
Rogers to make debut Tuesday
Former RailRiders starting pitcher Josh Rogers is set to make his major league debut Tuesday for the Baltimore Orioles, according to sources close to the situation.
The 24-year-old southpaw, who will face the Toronto Blue Jays, sports a 2-1 record and 2.08 ERA in five starts for the Norfolk Tides since he was traded to the Orioles on July 24.
Reach DJ Eberle at 570-991-6398 or on Twitter @ByDJEberle