Now that Russell Martin is on the roster, it’s likely both Jesus Montero and Austin Romine will open the season the minor leagues. In theory, each should each be in Triple-A, but that’s a logjam the Yankees don’t want.
“They need to catch, so that’s something we’ll deal with if we get there,” vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman said. “I wouldn’t want them to split right now.”
Montero and Romine split catching duties in the lower levels, but at this point, both need to get used to catching every day. They also need repetition behind the plate so that they improve defensively.
Obviously the Yankees won’t set anything in stone right now, but the arrival of Martin could force Romine back to Trenton, where last season he hit .268 with a second half that was worse than his first. I’m sure he’d rather move forward, but repeating the level might not be a waste of time.
• So far so good with Brandon Laird’s work in the outfield. Newman said the Yankees are convinced he can play the corners. Left field at Yankee Stadium might be a little spacious for him, but they think he could play right field in the Bronx, and he could play left in most parks. “He’s going to do well enough out there that he’s going to be an option,” Newman said. The Yankees still think Laird is better defensively at first and third, but he could be a legitimate four-corners option as soon as 2011.
• For whatever it’s worth — and it might not be worth much — I was impressed with Laird’s glove when I saw him in spring training. Much better than I was expecting. He made some pretty nice plays at third.
• If the Yankees feel the need to move one of their prospect starting pitchers into the Major League bullpen next season, they can make that adjustment quickly. There’s no need to make that switch out of spring training. “When they get to Triple-A, they don’t need a full year doing that,” Newman said. “They need a month or two of adjustment. They still need innings. You don’t want to limit innings by putting them prematurely in the bullpen.”
• Pretty standard situation for all of the players so far invited to camp on minor league deals. Neal Cotts is a slight exception because of his considerable big league experience and the fact he’s coming back from injury. “It’s a rehab deal with him,” Newman said.
• Romulo Sanchez is out of options. He’ll need to make the big league roster or pass through waivers this spring. I believe — though I forgot to ask — that Sanchez has been designated for assignment once before, meaning even if he clears, he could opt for free agency rather than accept a minor league assignment.
• Last month the International League transactions listed Matt DeSalvo having been assigned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. It’s not true. The Yankees have not re-signed him.
• One lower-level note: Catching prospect J.R. Murphy will continue to get the bulk of his time behind the plate, but he’ll also see time at third base and right field next season. He didn’t hit much last season, but the Yankees believe in his bat and believe he’s athletic enough to play different positions. They haven’t decided whether he’ll be in Charleston or Tampa next year.