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Yankees Hot Corner – Should Austin Romine play more?

The Yankees have been getting contributions from pretty much everyone nowadays.  Some may not be a surprise (Judge, Gardner, etc.) but one spot that the Bronx Bombers have been contributing from has been backup catcher.  This season has been a bit of a surprise so far for backup catcher Austin Romine.  At the beginning of the season he was only supposed to play when Gary Sanchez needed a blow or when Sonny Gray was pitching.  Now, between how hot he’s been and how poor Sanchez has been behind the plate, Romine may be in line for even more playing time.

Romine is currently batting .375 and has three HRs and 16 RBI.  His previous career highs were .242, four HRs and 26 RBI.  Romine has been a breath of fresh air both behind the plate and with the stick.  He’s on a 10 game hitting streak and had two hits Friday night, including an RBI double.  As per The Athletic’s Marc Carig, Romine’s approach to the plate has changed due to the expectations his coaches have put on him.

“I loved it.  It wasn’t negative.  It wasn’t ‘You’re not doing well, we expect you to do more.’  It was ‘We know you can hit more than that.’  It was positive.”  I’m not sure whether it’s the positive attitude change from Boone & Co. or Romine’s more simplistic approach to the plate, but Romine has been stroking and has no signs of slowing down.  However, he is still a career backup catcher and hasn’t proven over a full season that he deserves to split playing time.  Here are arguments for each:

Romine should split more with Sanchez

Austin Romine may not have proven over a full season that he can be more than a capable backup, but he falls into the Ronald Torreyes category of being labeled as a backup but never being given a chance.  It’s a numbers game, and Gary Sanchez is the best hitter on the Yankees regardless of numbers, but Romine has shown that he at least deserves a second look.  Romine has 64 plate appearances and still has over a .350 batting average, and in addition to being Sonny Gray’s personal catcher he has played a lot more the past few weeks.  He is confident at the plate and like some of the other backups on the team, Aaron Boone wants to get all his guys in to keep them fresh.  In addition, giving Romine more playing time keeps Sanchez fresh as well, preserving his legs for the long grind of the summer.  If anything, Romine behind the plate and Sanchez as DH still gives the Yankees a very capable lineup.  You aren’t giving away an out the way Romine is hitting, and he’s been much more consistent defensively.

Romine should stick to Gray, sporadic appearances

It’s just an assumption because Romine hasn’t been given an opportunity to shine, but why would you take out one of the best hitters in the game for a career backup?  Romine has been great, but as more as 64 plate appearances isn’t anything to scoff at it also isn’t a big enough sample size to prove Romine can be a legitimate .275+ hitter.  Sanchez may be able to hit as a DH and Romine has better defense right now, but Sanchez deserves to play catcher whenever he wants and shouldn’t be relegated to a DH role that the Yankees also need to rotate their outfielders.  Also, Sanchez is no slouch behind the plate and still has an absolute rocket for an arm.  Keeping the DH spot open and having Romine catch exclusively for Sonny Gray still lets Romine play once every five games (more than the average backup) AND lets Aaron Boone give Stanton, Judge, or Hicks a half day.  The last and probably most important point to dismiss the notion that Romine deserves more playing time is that Romine wlll already have that playing time built in.  The Yankees have a slew of double headers coming up in the next month or two and Romine will play at least half of those games during that stretch.  When push comes to shove, Romine gets enough playing time and doesn’t need to be overexposed.

At the end of the day, it’s a good problem to have.  Austin Romine is a very capable backup catcher and has produced more than any Yankee fan could imagine.  He’s already almost at career high levels at the beginning of June and even if his numbers dip, he’ll still exceed expectations.  Maybe it’s a bit early to call for Gary Sanchez’s head and anoint Austin Romine the savior behind the plate, but he is at least being given time to prove himself.  The Yankees have the best record in the league (36-17) for a reason, and one of the main reasons in the depth at every position.  It doesn’t always have to be a debate, but it’s more fun that way.

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