Kyle Higashioka
Greg Fiume/Getty Images

The New York Yankees will start backup catcher Kyle Higashioka in Game 1 of the team’s Wild Card matchup against the Cleveland Indians.

Kyle Higashioka will start at catcher on Tuesday for Game 1 of the New York Yankees’ Wild Card Series against the Cleveland Indians when ace Gerrit Cole takes the mound. Manager Aaron Boone confirmed the decision at a press conference Monday, with several sources including Lindsey Adler of The Athletic reporting.

Higashioka caught Cole’s last four starts of the season, and Cole went 3-1 with a masterful 1.00 ERA. Prior to that stretch, Cole was 0-2 with a 6.11 ERA in three starts caught by regular catcher Gary Sanchez.

And though Randy Miller of NJ.com reported back in July that Cole loved working with Sanchez, starting Higashioka now is the right call. It’s the playoffs and Cole has had a hot streak going with Higashioka as his personal catcher. There’s also precedent for this, as the Yankees always paired backup catcher Jose Molina with A.J. Burnett in the 2009 season and postseason.

In terms of hitting, it’s basically a push. Sanchez is an elite power hitter, but has struggled to make contact in 2020. He hit a miserable .147 and had just 23 hits on the year, though 10 were home runs. Sanchez’s K% was also an awful 36%, and his defense once again struggled as he posted a -4 DRS.

Kyle Higashioka, meanwhile, hit .250 as a backup and recently hit three home runs in one game. He and Gerrit Cole also played together on various youth squads in California before they turned pro.

On top of that, the Indians have likely AL Cy Young winner Shane Bieber starting for them in Game 1. Regardless of who wins the game, runs will come at a premium.

Given how well Gerrit Cole and Kyle Higashioka have worked together as of late, best to keep them together.

Game 1 kicks off on ESPN at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

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