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Austin Romine focuses on winning backup catcher job

Yankees catcher Austin Romine smiles in the visitors'

Yankees catcher Austin Romine smiles in the visitors' dugout after he singled and then scored against the Seattle Mariners. (Sept. 12, 2011) Credit: AP

TAMPA, Fla. - Austin Romine's hope of competing for the starting catching job for the 2014 Yankees lasted until late in the afternoon Nov. 23.

That was when news broke that the Yankees had reached an agreement with Brian McCann on a five-year deal.

And so the 25-year-old Romine, a second-round pick in 2007 and once considered among the organization's top prospects, had to readjust his thinking.

Now, it was about beating out Francisco Cervelli and J.R. Murphy to be McCann's backup. "Anybody that tells you that they didn't want to be a starting catcher is lying," Romine said after a workout Tuesday morning. "That's my goal, it's been my goal since I was a little kid. I'm sure it's Cervelli's, I'm sure it's Murphy's, I'm sure it's everybody's. Everybody wants to be a starter for the Yankees. Right now, the backup job is open so that's what you focus on."

Romine's defense rarely has been questioned in what has been an injury-riddled career spent mostly in the minors, but he's struggled with the bat. He played in a career-high 60 games in the majors last season and hit .207 with a .255 OBP. His season was cut short by a concussion sustained when he took a foul ball off his mask during a Sept. 10 game in Baltimore.

When the season ended, the Yankees made acquiring McCann one of their top goals of the winter, but there was no guarantee they'd get him. If they didn't, Romine, barring being in a trade, would be a part of a three-player competition to start.

So what were his thoughts when he heard McCann was coming? "I thought it was awesome," Romine said. "Here I get a chance to study and be under a guy that's been an All-Star forever. You'd be stupid not to pick his brain and learn something. So I see it as a great opportunity to learn more about this game from a guy that's been around this game for a long time. So I'm actually excited. I heard he's a great guy. Everybody's raving about him."


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