With Russell Martin jetting to the Pittsburgh Pirates, the catching position for the New York Yankees looked a bit hazy going into 2013. Many believed that Austin Romine would finally get the opportunity — although he’s often been injured throughout his minor league career — to be the Yankees starting catcher. However, it appears the young backstop will start the year in AAA and open the door for Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli to make a run at starting catcher.
According to Andrew McCarron of the New York Daily Post, Yankees GM Brian Cashman noted that Romine will begin the year down in Scranton playing for the Yankees AAA affiliate. However, the GM also iterated that Romine has a chance to make the major league club right out of the gate:
“I expect Romine to go to Triple-A. He missed all of last year, almost . . . I don’t expect him to be our everyday catcher out of the gate. He always has the possibility of taking it, but realistically, if I were in prediction mode, I’d say Triple-A. But he has a chance to alter that.”
While it’s not a ringing endorse for Romine in the least, it leaves the door open for him to make a run at the starting job should he have a great spring. This should hardly come as a surprise, especially since Romine has had difficulties staying healthy in recent years. For instance, in 2011 he played in only 98 games spread across three tiers (AA, AAA, ML) and he only appeared in 50 games last year as he battled a bad back. Missing two years of development, especially for a catcher, isn’t good at all.
Also, if fans are expecting the second coming of Jorge Posada, you are looking in the wrong mold. Romine is a defensive-minded catcher who can hit, when healthy. In 2010, in what amounts to a full season for him, he hit .268/.324/.402 (98 wRC+) in 115 games for Trenton (AA). Sure, it’s average hitting, but for a catcher, you take it. Comparatively, Martin hit .211/.311/.403 (95 wRC+) in 2012. At the surface it looks like an easy upgrade, but who knows if Romine will ever recover from his bad back and hit like he did in his first few years in the Yankees system.
In the same article, Cashman said that finding a righthanded bat is top priority at the present time. Even after sign Matt Diaz, who in the past has done very well against lefties (.324/.364/.498), Cashman is looking to provide more help in that department. The GM said the Spring Training will give the Yankees a good look as to how Diaz progresses after being injured for the better part of three seasons now:
“We’ll get a chance to see if that (the thumb) is the reason. Obviously, at one point, he was very successful against lefthanders. The last few years, he hasn’t been as successful. The claim is the thumb, but he’ll have a chance to return to form. It’s a free look. I like free looks.”