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Saturday, March 2, 2013
Stewart strikes back

By Wallace Matthews

Chris Stewart hit a two-run home run during the fourth inning against the Detroit Tigers.
Chris Stewart hit a two-run homer during the fourth inning against the Detroit Tigers.
TAMPA, Fla. -- Since Joe Girardi has maintained throughout training camp that he is looking for a defensive specialist behind home plate this year, it was pretty easy to assume that Chris Stewart's two-run homer in the fourth inning of the Yankees 10-3 win over the Tigers really wouldn't help him much in trying to win the job from Francisco Cervelli.

But when that supposition was presented to the manager, he could hardly stifle a grin. "Oh, it counts," he said. "It counts, all right."

There's little doubt that Stewart was running second in this race up till now, especially since Cervelli has thrown out 5 of 6 baserunners so far while until today, Stewart had only gotten himself thrown out, by Marty Foster in the second inning of a game on Thursday.

Girardi wasn't pleased with that, and he had been quite pleased with Cervelli's play to that point.

But, quite unexpectedly, Stewart is having a pretty spring at the plate, batting .429 albeit in just 7 at-bats. He has two singles, a home run and three RBI. Cervelli, meanwhile, is hitting .250 with three singles and a double in 12 ABs and has yet to drive in a run. (The other catchers in camp, Austin Romine and Bobby Wilson, among others, are longshots at best).

Stewart, who started 46 games behind the plate last year as the backup to Russell Martin, knows he has a goldne opportunity to be the everyday catcher this season, but says he is not keeping score on the battle with Cervelli.

"I'm not worried about what other guys do,'' he said. "I’m worried about what I need to do. As long as I take care of business I think I have a good chance to help this team win. regardless of how many games I play, when it’s my day, when my name gets called I’m gonna go out there and do whatever I can. Hopefully it gets called a lot this year.''

The possibility remains, however, that Girardi will wind up going with co-catchers, Stewart catching three days a week and Cervelli four, or vice versa.

"It’s happened before,'' Stewart said. "But I want to be in there 162 games. I want to be in there every single day. I'm not looking at it as a platoon situation but at the same time, I’ll take whatever I can get.''

QUESTION: Who would you rather see as the Yankees starting catcher this season? Stewart? Cervelli? Or a catcher-by-committee arrangement with both sharing roughly equal time?