The LoHud Yankees Blog

A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News


An honest competition behind the plate

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Misc on Mar 04, 2011 Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Three weeks ago, I thought all the buzz about Jesus Montero having a chance to break camp as the Yankees backup catcher was just talk.

Montero’s still young, he struggled through the first half last season, and regular playing time in Triple-A — learning from a good former catcher in Butch Wynegar — would surely let him take those final development steps. It seemed to me that the Yankees would inevitably let Francisco Cervelli keep his job and send Montero back to the minors for more seasoning.

Today, I’m not so sure.

The Yankees seem legitimately impressed by Montero’s improvement behind the plate, and pitchers say nothing but good things about his ability as a receiver. Six games into spring training, Montero and Cervelli have an equal number of starts.

“You have to make the jump sometime or no one ever gets here,” Joe Girardi said. “So, I mean, there’s a lot of people who’ve handled the jump extremely well. Some people don’t and you deal with that, but the kid works hard. He’s talented. There’s nothing that leads you to believe he couldn’t handle it, but you don’t know.”

True, you don’t know. I still think there’s a lot to be said for sending Montero back to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre — and I think Cervelli is a pretty good option as a No. 2 catcher — but I also think the Yankees are right that on-the-job learning, even as a backup, goes a long way in the big leagues. If this Cervelli injury is more than a bruise, the door could swing wide open. It might be pretty wide open already.

“I hope (Cervelli’s) back on track again,” Montero said. “I wish nothing bad on nobody. I’m just going to do my job behind the plate.”

The Yankees opened camp talking about a three-way competition, but it’s hard to miss the fact that Cervelli and Montero have gotten the starts while Austin Romine has been playing off the bench.

“(Cervelli and Montero) are your first two, but I’m looking at Romey,” Girardi said. “I looked at the job he did (Wednesday), God, he must have blocked 15 balls in the dirt. He caught well yesterday. That’s something that, he’s in the mix too, but when you go into a race, the guys that have played at a higher level are the guys that are the favorites. But that doesn’t mean that they get it.”

Romine has never played above Double-A. He hit .268/.324/.402 in Trenton last season, but Girardi said the jump from Double-A to the big leagues doesn’t bother him.

“I did it,” Girardi said. “(Romine is) probably a much better prospect than I was. I think players can handle that. That’s not a huge concern of mine.”

So Romine could be in the mix, but now that Russell Martin is about to start his first game at catcher, I’m finally ready to believe that there really are two legitimate candidates to be his backup behind the plate.

“We have an idea of what Cervi can do,” Girardi said. “We’ve seen him play very well at this level, so the evaluation is a lot of the young kid, Montero.”

Associated Press photo of Montero

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