Austin Romine knows the time is growing short on his run as the Yankees’ starting catcher. It started April 9 when Gary Sanchez went on the disabled list and Romine was thrust into the role, but Sanchez is scheduled to begin a minor-league rehab assignment Tuesday and could be back in time for next weekend’s series with the Cubs.
Romine got to enjoy one more moment in a starring role on Saturday in the Yankees’ 12-4 win over the Orioles at the Stadium. Batting ninth, he went 2-for-3 with a home run and five RBIs and ushered the pitching staff through nine innings with only two earned runs allowed.
The Yankees have been looking forward to getting Sanchez back, but they hardly can be unhappy about the results they’ve gotten with Romine calling games. In the 14 games he has started since Sanchez suffered a right biceps strain, the Yankees are 12-2. Yankees pitchers have a tidy 3.23 ERA when pitching to him.
“Obviously, Sanchez is our No. 1 guy here, but Romine has played excellent,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He could be a No. 1, too. I believe in the kid.
“He’s very bright and he knows what he is doing back there. He understands how to call a game and he understands how to read a report and adjust what the pitcher has that day to the report, and read swings. He’s done a tremendous job.”
Said Romine, “I never thought I’d be starting for the Yankees, so I am taking every day as a gift and I am enjoying the hell out of it.”
There was plenty to enjoy Saturday, even though he was pulling the rare catching double of starting two games in less than 24 hours.
His sacrifice fly in the second inning brought in the first run of a four-run rally that made the score 5-0. His two-run single to center in the fourth made it 7-0 and he hit a two-run homer to leftfield in the sixth for a 9-2 lead.
Romine’s second homer of the season made him the first Yankee to drive in at least five runs from the last spot in the batting order since Girardi drove in seven against the Rangers on Aug. 23, 1999. Romine is batting .300 with 10 RBIs, which ranks fifth on the team.
For him to work with five starting pitchers of differing styles, he says the key is to have an even keel. “I think your catching needs to be steady and be a rock and you . . . try to slow the game down,” he said.
After losing Sanchez, of whom much is expected, the Yankees have reason to be thankful for Romine’s play, but no one is more thankful than Romine himself.
“It means a lot to me because I can show what I am worth to the team and help the guys out when I can. I just try to fill in and do my job, and things are going well right now,” he said. “All you want to do as a backup player, when you get thrust into that position, is do well for the team and show them you belong and be a part of it. It’s a fun team to be a part of.”