Aaron Boone isn’t wild about pitchers having personal catchers, but the Yankees manager can be flexible when the battery clicks.
So barring a change of mind or an injury, backup catcher Kyle Higashioka will catch Gerrit Cole in the first game of the postseason next Tuesday.
“I don’t necessarily love it, but that said, I don’t mind it,” Boone said prior to Tuesday night’s game against the Blue Jays at Sahlen Field in Buffalo, where Cole made his fourth straight start with Higashioka behind the plate. “If you have a guy who is the clear backup that is only playing once every four days, once every five days and they get in a good rhythm with a pitcher, obviously I have been doing it here with Higgy and Cole.
“I think over the long haul maybe you try to avoid it a little, but if it is a natural matchup and things are rolling I am not against it.’’
Entering Tuesday, things couldn’t have been rolling any better with Cole throwing to Higashioka instead of regular catcher Gary Sanchez.
In his three previous starts, Cole went 2-1 with a 0.90 ERA while holding hitters to a .127 batting average, one homer and a .395 OPS. In eight games with Sanchez, Cole is 4-2 with a 3.91 ERA and has given up 12 homers.
Boone said he believes Sanchez won’t stew over not working with the staff ace and added he has seen improvement at the plate. Sanchez took a seat hitting .147 (21-for-143) with 10 homers, 24 RBIs and a .632 OPS.
“In the month of September, we have seen him start to gain a little bit of traction,’’ Boone said.
In six games from Sept. 15-21, Sanchez hit .240 (6-for-25) with three homers, nine RBIs and a .949 OPS.
With Sanchez showing signs of life at the plate, Boone isn’t concerned he will fret over not catching Cole.
“I am not worried about it,” Boone said. “We are down to the final days of the regular season and what we hope is a long run in the postseason and the bottom line is he is going to playing a huge role in that.
“I look forward to him hopefully helping us win a championship.’’
Giancarlo Stanton wasn’t in the lineup Tuesday after starting in two straight games, three of four and four of five.
“Just a day [off] in the middle of the series. He is good and bouncing back fine,’’ Boone said of his DH, who is 6-for-21 (.286) with a homer, three RBIs and a .919 OPS in five games since coming off the injured list on Sept. 15. “So, encouraged where he is at.’’
Boone used Aaron Judge in the DH spot and started Clint Frazier in right field.
Should the Yankees make it out of the first round of the AL playoffs, Masahiro Tanaka’s family will join him in the Southern California bubble where all AL teams will be sequestered.
Before that, the right-hander will have six days of rest before starting Game 2 of the first round, which will be played at home ballparks. Most likely it will be against the Twins, but the site has yet to be determined.
“It’s not like I will overdo something just because more days,’’ said Tanaka, who is 5-3 with a 1.76 ERA in eight postseason games.
Tanaka, who is scheduled to start Wednesday night against the Blue Jays, needs one win to reach 79. That would tie him with former Yankee Hiroki Kuroda for second place among Japanese pitchers in MLB.
“It is definitely a good feeling to be able to stay here this long to be able to rack up enough wins to tie a pitcher the caliber of Kuroda,’’ Tanaka said of his Yankees teammate in 2014.
Nick Nelson threw 27 pitches Monday night, so the Yankees signed lefty reliever Tyler Lyons to a major league contract and put him on the 28-man roster Tuesday. … Michael King was sent to the alternate site and Ben Heller was recalled and placed on the 60-day IL with a nerve problem in his right biceps.
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