Austin Romine has had quite a maligned career. Though he was a second-round pick in the 2007 draft and twice made Baseball America's preseason Top-100 prospect rankings, he's done very little since his second appearance on that list to endear himself to Yankees fans. Over three AAA stints, many marked by injury, from 2011 to 2013, Romine hit .246/.311/.364, which wouldn't normally be enough to earn a promotion. However, due to his reputation for strong defensive play, and the loss of Francisco Cervelli to hand/elbow injury, Romine received a call-up to the Yankees squad in late April, making his first MLB appearance since a .158/.200/.158 9-game stint in 2011.
To the surprise of probably nobody, Romine finished May with a terrible batting performance (.111/.111/.167) over 14 games, and his 14 games in June weren't much better, raising his OPS from .278 to .478 over the monthly split. Since the end of June, however, Romine has been on a tear at the plate, with a .333/.385/.500 line in the month of July, and a .476/.542/.810 line in his last eight games. Obviously, the small sample size means we can't make any long-term conclusions from this data, but it's clear that, since July, he's played much differently than the Austin Romine we used to know.
It would be hard to overstate the Yankees' offensive ineptitude so far in 2013, and there hasn't been much offense generated from the catcher position since Cervelli's injury. Chris Stewart, who had taken over the starting role, has compiled a .227/.297/.290 line on the year. This is still better than Romine's season stats, but Stewart has yet to have a stretch like the one Romine is currently enjoying. Catcher defense can be hard to scout and quantify, but it seems that there wouldn't be much of a drop-off, if there is one at all, by replacing Stewart with Romine behind the plate.
Stewart is a known commodity on both sides of the field at this point in his career, and Romine is bound to be a little inconsistent until he gains a little more experience at the MLB level. Stewart, though, is 31 years old and has never been even an adequate hitter, and he's done nothing during his tenure with the Yankees that would show otherwise. Romine is still only 24, with some room to grow as a player, and has quietly put together a string of productive games. While it's hard to envision him becoming a valuable, well-rounded MLB catcher essentially overnight, it is time to start getting some quality hitting from the catcher position, which Stewart is not capable of doing for any longer than a game (or so) at a time. I have a hard time finding a reason for playing Romine only eight games in the last four weeks other than for his reputation. At this point in the season, with not much to lose but a lot to gain, I think it's time Joe Girardi puts aside the first few months of his MLB career and begins to play Romine a little more than he has been. While I don't necessarily think he should take over the current starting spot from Stewart, I think it's important for this team to ride a hot bat for as long as the streak lasts. If that means giving Austin Romine more playing time as long as he represents a better option at the plate than Chris Stewart, then I'm all for it.