Are catchers Austin Romine and Kyle Higashioka competing against each other? It’s spring training, and that means everyone gets a chance to impress. Logic dictates that, yes, they would be battling for a job, however, Higashioka was never expected to be in the major league conversation this year. Now people are talking about how the two are in some kind of competition. Can Higashioka win the backup catcher job?
"I think we all thought that going in that Romine had a leg up because of what he did last year, and I still feel that," Joe Girardi says of the situation. For a backup catcher, Romine has pretty much done whatever has been needed of him. He’s solid enough behind the plate and even managed to hit .265/.278/.441 in the first half of 2016 before his numbers trailed off considerably. Still, could there be a better option?
So far both players have hit fairly well in spring training. "Romine's played well,” Girardi continued. In 11 games, the backstop has hit .320/.320/.520 with two doubles and a home run. That doesn’t mean Higashioka has gone unnoticed, though. “(Higashioka) has played well. I'll give him that.” He’s hit even better, to the tune of a .353/.476/.824 slash line in 13 games with two doubles, two home runs, and four walks.
Girardi decided, however, that “(Romine) is probably going to be the guy.” Of course he was always going to be the guy. Romine was fine last year, but he wasn’t good. The Yankees probably wouldn’t have a problem replacing him if he still had options on his contract. This means they can’t send him back down to the minors without having to expose him to wavers. Catchers are in hight demand these days, especially for an organization with no one else on the depth chart. They aren’t going to lose one for no reason when Higashioka can just be optioned right now. It’s the logical thing.
But now an opportunity has presented itself. Romine took a ball off the hand the other night, and he’s going to miss a few games. X-rays came back negative, but “hopefully he’s only out a couple days.” He might not get back in a game until Sunday at the earliest. This leaves Higashioka with at least three more games that he can use to gain some ground on his competition. It isn’t much, and it isn’t likely to make a different, but we only have about two weeks worth of games left. Every little bit helps.
Remember, the Yankees have made surprising, almost drastic changes before simply based on spring training performances. In 2014, they chose Yangervis Solarte over Eduardo Nunez, a decision that everyone wanted but no one expected would ever become a reality—until it did. The backup catching job certainly matters far less, but strange things have happened before, and strange things could happen again.
Do you think that Kyle Higashioka should make the final roster or are the Yankees better off with Austin Romine?