Austin Romine is well aware that last season’s back injury cost him valuable playing time, and he knows the Yankees have said he’s likely to open this season back in the minors. Way he sees it, that means this spring is just like last spring.
“Every year I’m coming in, and I’m trying to be on the team,” he said. “I’m not changing my mindset. … I don’t want to go to Triple-A. I want to be on this team, I’m here to show them that I can do it, and I’m going to earn it.”
Of course, reality is that this spring is unlike any other for Romine. With the big league catching job up for grabs, Romine is competing for more than attention and a few at-bats off the bench. He’s not a favorite for the job, but he hasn’t been ruled out either.
“I don’t know if you’d say equal footing because he missed a lot of last year with the back,” Joe Girardi said. “His biggest thing is, he needs to stay healthy and play the whole year. I don’t see why at some time he couldn’t help us this year. I just don’t know exactly when it will be.”
Romine said he weighed in at 215 pounds, with is 13 less than at the end of last season. He wasn’t giving a best-shape-of-my-life speech. Not exactly, anyway. He was really talking about his back, which limited Romine to 31 games last season. Losing the weight, and being smart about his offseason workouts, has eased the pain and left Romine feeling fully healthy. He quickly dismissed the idea of the back injury returning this year.
“At the end of the day, I’ll be like, hey, I don’t feel anything today,” he said. “And that’s where you want to be. Don’t even notice it.”
Last year was a bit of a lost season, but by design, spring training is a chance to start over.
“It’s kind of like, oh man, I missed out a little bit on some opportunities (last year),” Romine said. “But it’s still there, it’s still out in the open. I’m here now. I feel great. I tend not to dwell on the past. I missed a lot of ball for a while there, (but) I’m back and I’m itching to get going.”
• Chris Stewart’s locker is on the far side of the back wall where all of the top catchers are grouped together (Francisco Cervelli, J.R. Murphy, Bobby Wilson and Romine are back there, too). Stewart has the locker that belonged to Russell Martin the past two years. “That’s a good sign,” Stewart said. “I’ll take it.”
• Oddly enough, this will be Stewart’s fourth season in the Yankees organization, but it’s his first time opening camp with them. Last year, he was traded from San Francisco at the end of camp, in 2009 he was traded from the White Sox in the middle of spring training, and in 2008 he was signed in April after being released by the Rangers.
• Are Stewart and Cervelli as good as Russell Martin defensively? “Yeah, I believe so, definitely,” Girardi said. “I believe these guys have the ability to be very good back there. They’re not going to hit the home runs that Russell hit, but these guys have an opportunity to save runs, and that’s important.”
• CC Sabathia was asked whether he would prefer to have a definite No. 1 catcher. “In a perfect world, everybody would want to throw to Pudge Rodriguez or Sandy Alomar every start,” Sabathia said. “I think it’s okay to have a group compete. Since I’ve been here, I’ve thrown to a lot of different guys and I don’t find any problem with it. I think we’ll be okay.”
Associated Press photo