Sanchez Not That Far Off

Humberto Sanchez will face live batters soon

TAMPA, FL - Acquired from the Tigers for Gary Sheffield prior to the 2007 season, Humberto Sanchez has yet to face a batter in an official game in a Yankees uniform - in the big leagues or otherwise - and now he's close to reaching that milestone in his comeback from Tommy John surgery.

"[I'm] close to facing hitters," Humberto Sanchez said this weekend. "I've got another week of bullpens and then live batting practice sessions, so we're pretty close.

"I'll have two weeks of live batting practice and then I think it's the third week of June when I get into games."

Already back up on the mound but still limited to just throwing bullpen sessions in his rehab program, once Sanchez has faced live batters in simulated games for a couple of weeks, the current tentative plan has him breaking in with the Gulf Coast League Yankees initially for a few appearances.

"I feel good," he revealed. "I feel strong. I feel pretty normal right now so I want to keep that going.

"I'm throwing everything I have right now [in his repertoire] and it feels great. Everything feels strong and I feel back to normal."

Limited to just 35-40 pitches in his current bullpen sessions, Sanchez doesn't have to build up his pitch counts too much since he will remain in the bullpen role for the course of the 2008 season and he's chomping at the bit to make a full return.

"I don't even want to talk about it anymore because the more I talk about the more it seems further away," said Sanchez. "I just want to go out there and compete, even in BP's, just to have a guy up there and work things through. Working on pitches and getting people out, I just can't wait."

It remains to be seen where he'll move upon his short stint in the Gulf Coast League, whether it be in Double-A or Triple-A, only that he won't be there for longer than a few outings.

"It wouldn't be too much after that," Sanchez revealed. "I would guess three or four outings down here [in the GCL], and since I'll be in the bullpen this year, they'll want to make sure I can bounce back in two days.

"Since I don't have to build up high pitch counts, I don't think it'll be too long before I start moving up."

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