Austin Romine has been pretty good this year. After a five-RBI performance with a two-run home run yesterday, the Yankees backup-catcher-turned-starter is hitting .277/.327/.383 in 15 games. The 99 wRC+ he has currently accumulated would be the best of his career if the season ended today (we still have a long way to go though). Unfortunately for him, it’s all coming to an end before too long because Gary Sanchez is inching closer to his return.
When Sanchez exited the game on April 8th with an apparent arm injury, the Yankees looked to be in trouble without their starting catcher. Sanchez was expected to be the linchpin of the offense, but he has only appeared in five games so far this year. The Yankees called up Kyle Higashioka to fill out the roster, but Romine has been the starter going forward.
Sanchez was diagnosed with a Grade 1 muscle strain in his right biceps, meaning he would miss about a month. He started throwing from 120 feet on Wednesday and also participated in batting practice with the team. He is reportedly going out on his rehab assignment to Triple-A on Tuesday, so it’s just a matter of time before we see Gary back in pinstripes.
The Yankees have really taken off since the loss of Sanchez, going 14-3 over the last three weeks. They currently lead the American League East for the first time in what feels like forever (AKA August 2015), and they also have the best record in baseball, if you can believe it. The Yankees are actually on track to win 118 games at this point, which would sound unbelievable just a few weeks ago.
The team has been powered by excellent starting pitching performances from Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino, and Michael Pineda, a home run barrage led by Aaron Judge, and Austin Romine has been a big part of the offense. In a shocking development, the team hasn’t even missed Sanchez all that much in the end. It would seem that everything has worked out (nearly) perfectly for the Yankees this season.
It might be easy to suggest that Romine should remain in his role until he proves he can’t handle it, but this is Gary Sanchez we’re talking about. Romine is 28 years old, and he’s been floating around for years now. We know who he is, and we know what he can do. This recent success is either a blip on the radar or an indication that he can actually be a useful bat when he’s given the opportunity. That doesn’t mean that he should push the massive amount of potential that is Gary Sanchez to the wayside.
Romine won’t be going anywhere, since he’s out of options. Gary will go on his rehab assignment, hopefully get back into some kind of rhythm, and maybe return in some similar fashion to Didi Gregorius. As Matt Provenzano stated recently, this was Romine’s last chance to prove he can be an everyday catcher. While his time in that role with the Yankees is coming to an end soon, he was able to make the best of it. One day someone, somewhere is going to give him another chance like this. The question will be whether or not he can repeat his performance.