Every team carries one, just in case. But with the way the schedule works, it’s largely a superfluous position. While teams routinely go a week or even two without a day off during the regular season, there is no instance where any team will play in more than three consecutive days during the postseason. That leaves built-in rest days for the starting catcher, which means little to no role for the regular season backup.
In most situations teams opt to carry the backup anyway, but for the most part they’re not on the roster to give the starter a breather in a day game after a night game. They’re around just in case the starter takes one off the thumb, as Russ Martin did a few nights ago. They’re around in case the starter pulls a hammy rounding the bases, or gets hit on the head on a backswing. No team wants to get caught in that situation without an adequate replacement, so they bring the backup catcher along for the ride.
This season the Yankees have zero reason to carry a true backup catcher into the postseason. Earlier this week they placed their regular backup, Francisco Cervelli, on the 15-day DL. As Mike noted in that post, the 15-day DL is largely meaningless in September, since rosters have expanded to 40 anyway. While there might be other reasons for the Yankees to place him on the DL — Mark Feinsand of the Daily News notes that it creates a public record of Cervelli’s concussion — chances are it’s merely a move that allows the Yankees a little more flexibility when they create the playoff roster.
Austin Romine has taken over the backup catcher duties for the moment, and with all the men the Yankees have on the 60-day DL they could easily add him to the postseason roster. But there is no need. They’ll already have two players on the postseason roster, Jesus Montero and Jorge Posada, who can strap on catcher’s gear and fill in should Russ need to leave the game. And since they both fill the same lineup spot, DH, they won’t be playing at the same time. In other words, the Yankees can make a substitution without sacrificing the DH.
If a situation arises where Martin cannot continue, the Yankees can make a mid-series swap and add Romine to the roster at that point. That is, if Martin gets hurt in Game 3 of the ALCS, the Yankees could call in Romine for Game 4. The only catch is that Martin would then me ineligible for the World Series roster. That might be the only reason to carry a backup catcher in the playoffs: to ensure that the starter can remain on the roster in the following round if he sustains a nagging injury that will cost him a few games in the short-term. But that doesn’t seem like a good enough reason to carry a backup when another, more useful player could be available.
Using the above reasoning, here’s how the Yankees postseason roster could play out:
Catcher (1): Russell Martin
Infielders (6): Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Eduardo Nunez, Eric Chavez
Outfielders (5): Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher, Andruw Jones, Chris Dickerson
DH/PH (2): Jesus Montero, Jorge Posada
Starters (4): CC Sabathia, Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, Ivan Nova
Relievers (7): Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, Rafael Soriano, Cory Wade, Boone Logan, Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett/Luis Ayala/Hector Noesi
The last man in the bullpen is pretty unnecessary, but it’s doubtful that the Yankees carry only 10 pitchers. That means if they wanted to add Romine they’d have to remove Posada, Dickerson, or Chavez from the roster. Since all three of them can provide more value than a backup catcher, it stands to reason that the Yankees should just use the advantage they have — two emergency catchers — and run with that. It allows them to have a stronger and more flexible postseason roster.