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The Yankees need to know who is the real Austin Romine

With Sanchez set to miss time, this is Romine’s chance to shine

New York Yankees v Texas Rangers Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

I’ve never been one to shy away from criticizing about Austin Romine. This was a player who never really did anything and was designated for assignment by the Yankees in 2015. He came back because nobody else wanted him. Why should I get excited about Romine?

In 2016, he only won the job to backup Brian McCann because John Ryan Murphy was traded to the Twins and Gary Sanchez had a poor spring. The job literally fell into his lap because there was no other choice. It was easy to see why I didn’t care about Romine, he was just kind of there.

That same 2016 season, he proved to be fine as McCann’s backup, until Sanchez was called up for good in August and put the team on his back. At that point Romine fell to being the third-string catcher and that was a good thing. When McCann was traded to the Astros that winter, Romine once again got to be the Yankees’ backup catcher. This time, though, he was backing up the Yankees’ future at the position.

That was until Sanchez got hurt and missed 21 games. During that stretch, Romine was the Yankees starting catcher, especially considering Kyle Higashioka couldn’t buy a hit. In that stretch, Romine hit .316/.349/.456 with two home runs, good for a 112 wRC+. It was the best baseball of Romine’s major league career. I actually thought to myself that Romine could actually be good.

From that moment on, Romine reverted back to his normal self. From May 7th, 2017 to October 1st, Romine hit .186/.246/.238 with no home runs across 61 games, which was good for a wRC+ of 28. His strong start helped his overall numbers a bit, but he still ended the season with a wRC+ of 49. His good wasn’t even that great, it was merely solid, but his bad was very bad.

This past winter, I even thought the Yankees should try and pursue an upgrade at backup catcher. Why not, right? Sure Romine’s bad play after May could be attributed to lack of consistent playing time, but it could also just have been contributed to lack of being good. Romine’s career showed that the good was the outlier, not the bad.

Then came this year. Once again, Romine is off to a strong start. Except, it’s not just solid like it was last year. He’s actually good now? Maybe? He’s batting .305/.370/.524 with four home runs — a career high! — which is good for a 144 wRC+.

Who is this guy and what has he done with Austin Romine? *laugh track*

Now I’ve been burned by Romine before, so I refuse to believe he’s actually good now. He may have a new approach this year which has turned him into a completely different player, but I’m not yet a believer. I’ll admit as much. It’s hard for me to believe that bad players can just become good all of a sudden, and vice versa. If Romine ever wants to shut me up, this is time to shine though.

In the 10th inning of Sunday’s sweep-sealing loss to the Rays, the Yankees lost much more than the game. Gary Sanchez pulled up lame after trying to run out a groundball. After the game, Aaron Boone said it was likely that Sanchez would go on the disabled list. This could end up being good for Sanchez as he might be able to use the time off to reset and find the consistency in his bat that had been missing, and hopefully this injury doesn’t set him even further back. But the focus will now be on Romine.

If he is the real deal, this is his time to show it. If he’s not and just having an absolutely hot stretch, then might as well use up all the “Good Romine” now before “Bad Romine,” or as I like to call him: “Romine,” rears his ugly head.

No matter how he plays during this stretch, Sanchez is still the future at the position for the Yankees. Romine, playing his absolute best, still doesn’t come close to matching Sanchez when he’s playing normally. This is merely an opportunity for him to showcase that he really has become a different and better player as a stepping stone moving forward. Whether he moves forward as the Yankees backup or maybe some other team’s catcher, he has to show he can actually be the guy. It’s time for Romine to put up or shut up.