Every New York Yankees fan knows the catching situation is a source of concern heading into spring training. Right now Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart are the favorites to break camp as the catching tandem in the Bronx. However, Austin Romine, 24, could get an outstanding chance this spring to unseat one of the two.
Romine figured to get a long look in camp. However, he might be on the receiving end of even more playing time because Francisco Cervelli will be representing Italy in the World Baseball Classic. That means Romine, if he has a strong spring, could break camp as the Yankees starting catcher.
With only 21 games under his belt at AAA, GM Brian Cashman has said he believes Romine will start the season in AAA to make sure he gets playing time. However, with Cervelli away from the eyes of the coaching staff and decision makers, it could be Romine who gets the nod.
Romine missed most of last season, appearing in 31 games as he came back from a back injury he suffered in spring training last year. Had Romine been healthy the Yankees might be looking at Romine as a backup to Russell Martin heading into this season. However, Martin’s departure for the Pittsburgh Pirates opened the door once again for Romine and Cervelli’s foolish decision to play in the World Baseball Classic just means Romine will be given every opportunity to kick the door down permanently.
Could the Yankees really break camp with Romine on the Major League roster? It isn’t unprecedented. Four years ago Ramiro Pena was able to take advantage of extended playing time while Robinson Cano and Derek Jeter were away with the WBC. Pena played himself into a utility role with the Yankees despite not having much experience above AA. Now, Romine could take similar advantage, put together a strong spring, and head north with the team.
With Chris Stewart out of options it likely means that Stewart will be, at the very least, the backup catcher. However, like last season, Cervelli could find himself battling just to keep his roster spot, let alone for the starting job. The question is, will Austin Romine take advantage of his extra playing time and earn a spot on the 25-man roster? If he does, it would likely be as the starting catcher.