2013 statistics: 60 games, 148 plate appearances, .207/.255/.296, 48 wRC+, -0.2 fWAR
2014 contract status: Under team control; pre-arbitration eligible
Austin Romine's season with the Yankees began abruptly when he was called up from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after just 14 games following Francisco Cervelli's broken hand in late-April. Romine, before getting the emergency call-up, hit .333/.391/.405 in 46 plate appearances with the RailRiders. Given he had much more upside than Chris Stewart, the team's only remaining catcher, and that he actually had a future with the team, one would have thought he would run away with the starting catcher's job with Stewart, in his deserved role as backup catcher, behind him.
Unfortunately, that didn't quite happen. Romine was inserted into the starting lineup two days after being called up from Triple-A. In his first game against Houston on April 29, Romine went 0-for-3 at the plate with a strikeout while catching Andy Pettitte, who got shelled that evening, behind the plate. After the game, Pettitte admitted that he and Romine couldn't get on the same page, though he didn't necessarily blame the 24-year-old for his bad outing. The two would only pair up here and there the rest of the season.
Following his season debut against Houston, Romine sparingly played until Stewart injured his groin running the bases on May 16. Romine got the nod behind the plate in Stewart's absence for the next few days, but couldn't take advantage, as he hit just .200/.200/.267 in the five following games. Once he returned on May 24, Stewart continued to get the majority of the time (started 29 of the next 47 games, 61% of the starts) behind the plate in favor of the youngster. Romine, who had been used to being a regular catcher while progressing through the Yankees' minor league system, continued to flounder in a part-time role with the big club, as he hit a very weak .135/.135/.162 in his next 38 PA's from May 25-July 8.
Romine was so bad, that on the season his batting average (.132), on-base percentage (.145), and slugging percentage (.176) were all below his weight (215 lbs, according to the Yankees' official website) through his first 32 games (23 starts) and 71 PA's. He was that awful. Thankfully, something clicked; on July 11 against the Royals, Romine went 2-for-4 at the dish with a double and an RBI. It was his first multi-hit game since June 3 and his third such game of the season. From that game through August 30, Romine hit a robust .353/.433/.529. Normally, that would be something that would warrant a regular spot in the lineup, but he had only appeared in 19 (16 starts) of the team's 43 games in that span. Stewart, who hit .167/.227/.233 during Romine's run, was clearly over-matched at the plate, but continued to get the majority of the playing time for some reason.
When September rolled around, Romine continued to get the short end of the starting catching stick, as he started just four of the 10 September games in which he appeared in. During that time, he started to come back down to Earth following his hot streak, hitting .063/.063/.063 in his final 16 plate appearances of the season. On September 10, Romine suffered a concussion on a foul tip against the Orioles in Baltimore, which ultimately ended his season.
Although there were some bright moments, 2013 was a disappointing one for Romine. He didn't really have much of a chance to get a regular spot in the lineup, though, and it appeared as though that played at least some sort of a role in his troubles early on. I also thought he played passable defense behind the plate, at least in my opinion, but I guess the Yankees thought Stewart was the better option defensively. Barring a free agent signing of Brian McCann, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, A.J. Pierzynski, Carlos Ruiz, etc., I expect Romine and J.R. Murphy (not Chris Stewart!) to battle it out for regular duties behind the plate come next spring. With Murphy's stock continuing to rise, it will be critical for Romine, if given the chance, to rebound following his lackluster 2013.