Yankees catcher Austin Romine was sent reeling in the fifth inning of Saturday’s game with the Blue Jays when Richard Urena fouled Luis Severino's 98-mph fastball off Romine's mask, knocking it off.
Romine wobbled backward and might have toppled over if plate umpire David Rackley had not held him up. He was attended to by the training staff and stayed in the game but was removed after the sixth inning as a precautionary measure, manager Aaron Boone said.
Romine was replaced by third-string catcher Kyle Higashioka, the only other receiver on the team’s 40-man roster with Gary Sanchez on the disabled list. Ronald Torreyes and Neil Walker will serve as emergency backup catchers unless the Yankees believe they need to seek help elsewhere.
Romine was not made available for comment after the game. "Ro’s good,’’ Boone said, "[but] obviously, any time you see that, [he] went through the testing in the field and was deemed OK. Then we took him down in the tunnel between innings, felt like he was OK, but just seeing the video and seeing him kind of stumble like that, we just wanted to be careful. Then we got him with the doctor, had a SCAT test [as part of the concussion protocol], he passed that. He seems to be pretty good right now, so we’ll continue to monitor him and see how he's doing, but I think he's OK."
Romine essentially has been the team’s everyday catcher since Sanchez first went on the disabled list with a groin strain June 25 (he currently is on the DL for the second time with the same injury and there is no timetable for his return).
Romine, who was hitless in one at-bat against the Blue Jays, has been something of a revelation. The 29-year-old backup has a .260 average with a career-high eight home runs and 36 RBIs after totaling seven homers in his previous six major-league seasons. He became the first Yankees catcher since Thurman Munson in 1976 to have at least three hits, a home run and a stolen base in the same game.
"He’s huge for us obviously right now, not just right now but any time,’’ Boone said. “Higgy will catch tomorrow, regardless even if he [Romine] comes in and feels good. Higgy will start tomorrow and then with the off-day Monday, hopefully he remains symptom-free and it's not a big issue . . . We'll continue to monitor him and follow him closely and see where we're at as the hours unfold. But right now he seems to be fine.’’
Higashioka, who is hitting .182 with three of his 10 hits coming on homers, said a foul tip to the mask "Is definitely one of the [most feared]" by catchers. "You never want to mess with the head-slash-brain,'' he said. "He said he was feeling all right, so it's a good sign for us because he’s been a big part of the team. We definitely can't afford to lose him right now.’’