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Montero, Sanchez Share Pressure Of Yankees Future

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Jesus Montero (Photo by Brian Westerholt) Jesus Montero (Photo by Brian Westerholt)[/caption] CHARLOTTE—From the late 1990s to the early 2010s, the Yankees had an identity. Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada—known by many around baseball as the Core Four—had anchored the team’s championship dynasty for years. By 2011, the four were were nearing the end of their illustrious careers. Posada was the first to retire, following the 2011 season, and the pressure to fill his shoes was tremendous. That role was first available for Jesus Montero, who said he felt immense stress to become the next great Yankees catcher. "I was seen as the one to step in and carry it on,” Montero said. Montero, who ranked no lower than the No. 6 overall prospect from 2010-2012, was thought to have a chance to carry on a tradition of All-Star Yankees catchers from Bill Dickey to Yogi Berra to Elston Howard to Thurman Munson to Posada. Montero did nothing to dispel that notion in his major league debut at the end of 2011. In just 61 at-bats, Montero hit four homers, including two opposite-field homers off the Orioles' Jim Johnson in an 11-10 win in just his fourth major league game. The next morning, both New York tabloids had Montero on their cover with head popping out of dugout, doffing his batting helmet for his first Yankee Stadium curtain calls. "It was really special, I was happy to feel those moments, in my career and my life,” Montero said. But five years later, that might be the peak of Montero's career. The following January, he was traded to Seattle in a challenge deal that saw young righthander Michael Pineda go to the Bronx, two young players traded for each other, with the Yankees and Mariners gambling they got the better end. Since then, Pineda had a major shoulder injury that required surgery and caused him to miss most of two seasons, while Montero has spent the past five seasons bouncing between the minors and majors with the Mariners and now the Blue Jays. "A lot of things happen in baseball,” Montero said. Now at Triple-A Buffalo, Montero admits there was pressure in those years with the Yankees. "It was for me, (to be the next great Yankee), I heard the talk,” Montero said. "I don’t know, a lot happens in this game, I just play hard, and play the best I can.” Part of the reason the Yankees felt comfortable trading Montero despite the hype was they had a similar player on the horizon in Gary Sanchez. Sanchez, like Montero, is a power-hitting righthanded catcher, but unlike Montero, his catching skills have developed to the point that the Yankees and scouts believe he'll be a capable major league receiver. In fact, Sanchez rates as the No. 36 prospect on the Midseason Top 100

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, and has made brief big league appearances in each of the past two seasons. "It’s special to be a Yankee, this organization is one of the best in baseball, I’m happy to be here,” Sanchez said. Perhaps most importantly, the pressure to replace Posada has dissipated. The Yankees signed free agent Brian McCann before the 2014 season, allowing Sanchez more time to develop. And just maybe Montero's experience helped alleviate some of Sanchez's pressure. "Did I take some pressure away? Maybe, I don’t know,” Montero said with a smile. "I’m enjoying my time now and playing the best ball I can, I don’t make the decisions, all I can do is work my hardest.” Sanchez, 23, is awaiting his second stint with the Yankees, while Montero, now 26, is grinding to get a spot with the Blue Jays. "I feel no pressure, I’m feeling good, and playing hard,” Sanchez said. "I just want to put on a show for the people, and help my pitcher toss a good game.” With McCann in place and Montero in another organization, Sanchez is free to do just that.

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