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Yankees prospect Austin Romine fights for backup catcher role

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. -- The answer was an obvious one, and Austin Romine didn't hesitate to provide it.

Would he prefer to be the Yankees' backup catcher or get full-time work in Triple-A in 2012?

"I would love to be a big-league backup," Romine said Thursday morning. "Growing up, the object is to get to the big leagues. And however, whatever way I can, I want to do it. If it's 30 games [as a backup], that's what it is. I think I can learn more by being up there and being around the team."

Standing in the way of that occurring for the 23-year-old Romine is Francisco Cervelli, who, like Romine, has been working out at the Yankees' minor-league complex for the last week. Cervelli was Russell Martin's primary backup last season before missing most of the final month because of a concussion.

Because of Cervelli's injury, Romine got a taste of the big leagues in September. He was brought up from Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes/Barre, where he had replaced Jesus Montero when Montero got his Sept. 1 call-up. Romine hit .158 in nine games (four starts). But he wasn't brought up for his bat, and he impressed the Yankees, Joe Girardi in particular, with his work behind the plate.

While Cervelli is the favorite entering camp, Romine will be given every chance to win the backup spot. One big obstacle in that regard was eliminated last month when Montero, the organization's top prospect, was dealt to Seattle in the trade that netted Michael Pineda.

"It doesn't change anything," Romine said. "The fact is that I have to play well [to earn the job], and whoever's in front of me, it really doesn't matter."

Last season Romine played 85 games for Double-A Trenton and four for Scranton before being brought to the Bronx, something he wants to be permanent this year.

"It was definitely very cool to be up there, especially hanging around for the playoffs, getting that taste," Romine said. "I just want to get back so bad, so I'm out here trying to do that . . . I learned what it took to get there, I saw the work ethic those guys were putting in. Day in and day out, those guys were busting their butts. I saw what it takes to stay there and I'm going to do whatever it takes to get there again."

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