COMMENTARY | General manager Brian Cashman downplayed the chances that Austin Romine could emerge as the New York Yankees' everyday catcher in 2013 ... at least to start the season.
Cashman told the New York Daily News on Wednesday, Jan. 2, that he thinks Romine is more likely to begin next season in the minors while Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart battle for the No. 1 job with the big club.
"I expect Romine to go to Triple-A," Cashman said. "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."
Romine, 24, played only 31 games in the minors after undergoing back surgery. He played nine games in a late-season call-up to the Yankees in 2011.
According to Baseball-Reference.com, Romine hit .243/.333/.408 in 120 minor-league plate appearances in 2012. He played nine games for the Yankees' affiliate in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, five more for Tampa in the High-A Florida State League and 17 for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Russell Martin was the team's regular catcher for the last two seasons. The Yankees did not extend Martin a qualifying offer in free agency and he signed a two-year deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates at the end of November.
Cervelli was once considered a top prospect by the organization, but he was basically buried in 2012. Cervelli played 93 games in 2010 as Jorge Posada's primary backup and hit .271/.359/.335 with 38 RBI and appeared 43 times in 2011 backing up Martin. In 2011, Cervelli hit .266/.324/.395 with four homers and 22 RBI.
Last season, however, Cervelli made just two plate appearances at the major-league level after losing the backup job early in the season when the Yankees brought in Stewart in an April 4 trade with the San Francisco Giants.
In 99 games for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last year, Cervelli hit .246/.341/.316 with two homers and 39 RBI in 417 plate appearances.
For his part, Stewart is considered to be the stronger of the two defensively and hit a career-high .241 with a .292 OBP and .319 slugging percentage in 157 plate appearances for the Yankees last season. He had one homer and 13 RBI.
For his career, Stewart, who will be 31 in February, is hitting .217/.281/.302 with four homers and 26 RBI in 148 games for the Chicago White Sox, Texas Rangers, San Diego Padres, Giants and Yankees.
Stewart has actually had two stints with the Bombers. In 2008, he was signed as a free agent after he was released late in spring training by the Rangers. He refused assignment to the minors in July 2008, but re-signed with New York when there were no big-league offers forthcoming.
During spring training in 2009, Stewart was swapped to the White Sox.
Romine is likely to be in the mix at some point in 2013, but he's going to have to go back to the minors for a spell to prove he's recovered from the back problems first.
Phil Watson was a writer and editor for several daily newspapers for more than 20 years and is now a freelance sports journalist and commentator based in Upper Michigan.