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Saturday, January 26, 2013
Countdown: 17 days to spring training

By Wallace Matthews

We continue our march to February 12, the day pitchers and catchers report to Yankees spring training camp in Tampa. Each day between now and then, Andrew Marchand, Mark Simon and I will present a list of specific issues facing the Yankees this season.

Today, we look at the three-headed monster known as Stew Rominelii. The team is counting on him to replace Russell Martin behind the plate.


FIVE REASONS WHY THE YANKEES WILL BE OK WITH A COMMITTEE OF CATCHERS

1. RUSSELL MARTIN LIVED BELOW THE MENDOZA-LINE IN 2012
In case you've forgotten, or had your memory blurred by his decent September, the Yankees starting catcher did not get his batting average above .200 for good until Sept. 5, in the 136th game of the season. By contrast, Chris Stewart was up to .269 by mid-August, in admittedly a much smaller sample size. But the guy's never had more than 162 ABs in a season. Let's see what he can do if given a full slate of plate appearances. And while Francisco Cervelli may not have much pop in his bat, he put up a more-than-respectable .271 BA and .359 OBP in 93 games in 2010.

2. THERE AREN'T MANY YOGI BERRAS OUT THERE
Or Jorge Posadas, for that matter. Yankee fans have been extremely lucky to often have an offensive force behind the plate, but traditionally, teams look for a defensive minded-catcher. Any hitting they get out of the position is considered a bonus. Martin was a very good defensive catcher and so is Stewart. Cervelli works hard back there and has a good arm but his footwork needs improvement. Austin Romine, who has yet to play an entire season of AAA ball due to a back injury last year, must be considered a longshot in this race. He comes with the reputation of a solid defensive catcher and a so-so bat. All three fit the mold favored by Joe Girardi, who in case you have forgotten was a pretty good with the glove, not so hot with the bat.

3. THERE HAD TO BE A REASON WHY CC SABATHIA DIDN'T THROW TO MARTIN FOR MOST OF THE SEASON
Despite all the denials, you've got to figure there was more to Girardi's decision to separate his ace from his No. 1 catcher from April to September. It's possible, that in spite of his athleticism and quickness pouncing on balls hit in front of the plate, there was something about the way Martin called a game, or handled his pitchers, that didn't sit right with Sabathia. (Some Yankee pitchers haven't been crazy about Cervelli's "enthusiasm,'' either. Freddy Garcia once said, "The catcher needs to calm down out there.'') Stewart is a steady hand back there who the pitchers, especially, the No. 1 guy, seem to trust.

4. IT'S A YOUNG MAN'S GAME
Although Martin is a year younger than Stewart, it always felt as if his body was on the verge of giving out, especially late in the season. He played hard all the time and it seemed to wear on him down the stretch. And certainly his history -- missing a big chunk of the 2010 season after a hip injury with L.A., after which he has never been the same hitter -- must have factored into the Yankees decision not offer Martin a long-term deal.

5. GARY SANCHEZ MIGHT ONLY BE A YEAR OR TWO AWAY
And if you buy the hype, the next Posada -- or even Berra -- is right around the corner.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Do you think the Yankees can survive the season with the committee of Chris, Fran and (maybe) Austin behind the plate? Or should Brian Cashman be looking for help?