- Associated Press - Friday, September 29, 2017

NEW YORK (AP) - Yankees manager Joe Girardi is sticking with catcher Gary Sanchez for the postseason despite the 24-year-old’s defensive difficulties.

Sanchez leads the major leagues in passed balls with 16 and has been behind the plate for 53 wild pitches, four shy of the big league-leading total of Colorado’s Jonathan Lucroy.

“This is my catcher,” Girardi said Friday. “I am happy with the progress that he’s made. Will he make more progress? Absolutely. He’s young, but this kid has really made a lot of progress.”

New York led 4-1 Thursday when Tampa Bay closed on a wild pitch and passed ball that each allowed a run. The Rays rallied for seven runs in the inning and went on to win 9-6.

“Catchers are going to have bad days. He got the crap beat out of him yesterday. Everyone wants to focus on the two balls that maybe they got by him, but what about the 12 or 14 that he did block?” Girardi said. “And he got hit in the neck. He got hit in the shoulder.”

Girardi criticized Sanchez after a passed ball at Cleveland on Aug. 4, saying he needed to improve, and he benched the 24-year-old for the next two games.

“I was just being honest, letting him know that he needs to improve, and he took it upon himself and has worked very hard to improve,” Girardi said. “We don’t necessarily have the easiest guys to catch in the world.”

In his first full season in the majors, Sanchez has thrown out 36 of 92 runners attempting to steal. He is hitting .278 with 33 homers and 90 RBIs in 121 games, missing time from April 8 to May 5 because of a strained right biceps.

“Defensively the year hasn’t gone the way that I wanted to, but I also feel that I’ve improved in the past couple months,” he said through a translator.

Sanchez tries not to dwell on the miscues.

“Stuff like that, you have to put it aside and you can’t let that bother you,” Sanchez said. “You have to move away from that, all that negative stuff.”

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More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

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