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Brian Cashman seems comfortable with catching situation

Brian Cashman prepares for Sunday's Climb by test

Brian Cashman prepares for Sunday's Climb by test climbing down the 22 stories of the Landmark building in Stamford, Conn. (Nov. 30, 2012) Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

STAMFORD, Conn. -- Russell Martin's decision to bolt for the Pirates on Thursday surprised many in baseball. But Brian Cashman said he and the Yankees weren't among them.

"This isn't something that caught us off guard," Cashman said early Friday morning as he and Bobby Valentine practiced rappelling down the 22-story Landmark Building.

Martin's departure for a two-year deal worth about $17 million -- the Yankees never made an offer -- leaves the club without a starting catcher. But Cashman said that although he's open to anything that might develop via trade or free agency, it's not a priority.

"We're going to have to pursue a lot of areas on this club," Cashman said between rappel practice runs for Sunday's Heights and Lights Holiday Tree Lighting ceremony. "Bench, rightfield, potentially catching, but maybe not. It's possible that our catchers are on this roster right now. That very well is possible, and more likely than not, to be honest."

The Yankees have shown little interest in two of the top free agents, Mike Napoli and A.J. Pierzynski. If they stay in-house, and many are skeptical they will, their choice for the starting job will come from a light-hitting group.

The Yankees have Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart and Austin Romine as options on their 40-man roster, and the latter two are especially solid defenders. Eli Whiteside, claimed from the Giants Nov. 5, was designated for assignment Wednesday to make room for Andy Pettitte on the 40-man roster.

"In the catching area, we have placeholders there," Cashman said. "We have people that can handle and run the game. The offense is an area that currently with what our roster provides will be a downgrade from what we're used to. But the most important aspect [is defense].'' He added: "It's not like we haven't gone with a [defense-first] situation. We transitioned from Mike Stanley to [Joe] Girardi while [Jorge] Posada was being cultivated still. It's not the first time we've been in this position."

Cashman said he prefers to have Romine, 24, who missed most of last season with a back injury, play every day at Triple-A. "But when you're this close to the big leagues,'' he said, "things can come quick if you've got a lot of talent."

Of recently published photos that appeared to show Derek Jeter, recovering from a fractured ankle, having put on a few pounds, Cashman said with a smile, "Probably just a wrinkle in the shirt." But that was after being quite serious.

"All indications are very strong for a full and healthy recovery ," Cashman said. "I'm not worried about Derek Jeter in any way. You're not going to find anybody more committed to being the best he can be than Derek Jeter."

Mo official. Mariano Rivera's one-year, $10-million deal with incentives, agreed to Thursday, became official Friday when the 43-year-old passed his physical. "Like I've been saying, I didn't want to go out like that," Rivera, in a statement, said of the torn ACL suffered May 3 that cost him his season. "I didn't want that to be the last image. But it wasn't an easy decision because there's more than just baseball with me. I have to consider my family and the church, too. But I feel like we have a great group of guys and a team that can compete for a championship. I'm not just coming back to play. I'm coming back to win."

The Yankees claimed pitcher Jim Miller off waivers from the A's and signed Jayson Nix to a major-league contract, avoiding arbitration. To make room for Rivera and Miller, Nix and pitcher Mickey Storey were designated for assignment.

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