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Big League Stew

Voltron catcher: Building a better Yanks backstop for the playoffs

Rob Iracane
Big League Stew

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With less than two weeks of the 2011 regular season to go and a near-guarantee that the postseason is in their future, the New York Yankees can grin comfortably at their squabbling division rivals in the rearview mirror and instead focus on organizing the team for the playoffs. Some elements of the machine are firm and unchanging: Mark Teixeira is the first baseman. Curtis Granderson is the center fielder. CC Sabathia is the Game 1 pitcher.

But when one looks at the Yankees' current 40-man roster and disabled list one counts a whopping five different gentlemen who, at one point or another in their lives, have been paid money to squat behind home plate wearing a mask and various other items of bodily protection. The Yankees have too many catchers!

Or do they? {YSP:MORE}

The five in question are starter Russell Martin, injured backup Francisco Cervelli, heralded rookie phenom Jesus Montero, less-heralded rookie phenom Austin Romine, and grizzled veteran Jorge Posada. Granted, Posada has spent the entire 2011 campaign struggling in the role of designated hitter and didn't even take any reps during spring training, but he did notch a few innings behind the dish in a game last week after Martin left a game early as Cervelli is on the DL with concussion symptoms. So, he's in the mix to suit up again in case of emergency in the postseason. Well, if he even makes the postseason roster.

Ideally, the Yankees would only carry two catchers and one DH, but with Posada and the hot-hitting Montero being the two best options at DH, they might not even need a backup catcher, says Joe Pawlikowski of River Ave Blues. If the starter Martin leaves a game early with a minor injury, he can be replaced mid-game by whomever wasn't the DH. If the injury is serious enough to keep Martin out longer, the MLB rulebook says he can be replaced on the postseason roster by another catcher, either Romine or, if he's well enough, Cervelli.

But we at Big League Stew have an even better idea. Build a better backstop using the best qualities of each of the five men, Voltron-style! That way, the Yankees need carry just one super-catcher who is loved by good and feared by evil.

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What's the receipe: Take Posada's grizzled experience from 17 years in the bigs and 120 playoff games (but not his leadership, since a real leader doesn't throw tantrums). Take Martin's ability to handle pitchers. He's blocked more A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes breaking balls in the dirt than the Republicans have blocked Obama's executive nominations. Take Montero's powerful opposite-field bat and potential breakout star power. Take Romine's strong arm and quick release that helped him throw out 25 percent of would-be base-stealers in Double-A this season.

And even though he might have gotten knocked out a bit in a recent home plate collision with Baltimore Orioles outfielder Nick Markakis, Cervelli's fiery, fighting, team-first attitude that tends to rile up the opposition.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi, himself a catcher during his playing days, would pencil in this super-catcher in every lineup, every night.

Now, if only medical science could figure out a way to fuse five baseball players together without violating the MLB ban on performance-enhancing drugs.

Follow Rob Iracane on Twitter — @iracane

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