Austin Romine, David Adams, and the WBC

Rule changes tentatively approved for 2013
Report: Nationals land Soriano; Yanks another draft pick
(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

The official rosters have yet to be released, but right now we know at least four Yankees will participate in the World Baseball Classic in a few weeks: Mark Teixeira (USA), Andy Pettitte (USA), Robinson Cano (Dominican Republic), and Frankie Cervelli (Italy). Since Hiroki Kuroda and Ichiro Suzuki have already declined invitations from Team Japan while CC Sabathia (elbow), Mariano Rivera (knee), and Derek Jeter (ankle) are all coming off surgery, those four guys are likely to be the only Yankees to play in the tournament. I suppose Josh Spence could crack the Australia roster, but he isn’t on the 40-man roster and not someone really worth worrying about at this point.

Four years ago, the Yankees had several players participate in the World Baseball Classic, most notably Jeter and Cano. While those two were off representing their countries, the club was a little short on middle infielders in Spring Training and gave some of their minor leaguers extended looks. That’s how Ramiro Pena, who had never played above Double-A at that point, wound up playing in 30 of the team’s 34 Grapefruit League games that year, receiving the fourth most at-bats of anyone on the team. He hit an okay .277/.329/.338 and flashed serious leather in camp, which was good enough to beat out the veteran Angel Berroa for the utility infielder position on Opening Day. Pena received an opportunity in 2009 and took advantage of it.

This spring, those WBC-created opportunities will belong to Austin Romine and David Adams. Romine, 24, was due to get a long look in Spring Training anyway given the team’s current catching situation, but with Cervelli away from the club, he’ll get even more at-bats in front of the team’s decision makers. Brian Cashman recently said he envisions Romine starting the season in Triple-A, but a strong camp has a way of changing minds. Since Chris Stewart appears to be a lock for one of the two catching spots, it’s Romine vs. Cervelli for the other and only one will be with the team in Spring Training. I think it’s fair to wonder why Cervelli is playing in the WBC given the big league opening. Maybe not the smartest career decision.

(Jordan Megenhardt/

As for Adams, he figures to get plenty of playing time at second base while Cano is away with the DR squad. The Yankees like the 25-year-old enough to have him work at third base late last season and in the Arizona Fall League a few weeks ago, presumably in an effort to increase his versatility in advance of a big league bench job. Adams can’t play shortstop and wouldn’t work as a true utility infielder, but the Yankees have yet to replace Eric Chavez and he could fill that spot. His primary competition would be Corban Joseph, who is a defensive liability at both second and third. As we saw with Pena a few years ago, the Yankees won’t hesitate to skip Adams over Triple-A if he’s the best man for the job, something he has a chance to prove in camp.

One other benefit of the WBC — if you can really call it a benefit — is the opening of Pettitte’s rotation spot. He’ll be getting his work in with Team USA while Ivan Nova and David Phelps have a true Spring Training competition for the fifth starter’s spot. Usually when there are multiple pitchers competing for one spot, one winds up pitching in relief of the other in the same game, meaning the starter tends to face big league hitters while the guy coming out of the pen faces the minor league replacements. With Pettitte away from the team, both Nova and Phelps can start every five days for the Yankees and truly compete for the rotation head-to-head with no scheduling or competition weirdness. Things will be a little more fair.

I enjoy the World Baseball Classic as a fan because hey, it’s meaningful baseball in March. The tournament itself is pretty meaningless, but I find it fun nonetheless. I do worry about players, especially ones as important to the 2013 Yankees as Cano and Pettitte, getting hurt while playing for other clubs, but it comes with the territory. Some of the absences this March will create some opportunities for young players in camp, specifically Romine and Adams. Both are on the outside of the big league roster looking in now, but there are openings available and a strong few weeks could be the difference between an assignment to Triple-A or a six-figure job in the Bronx.

Rule changes tentatively approved for 2013
Report: Nationals land Soriano; Yanks another draft pick
  • The Oberamtmann

    You briefly touched on it, but wouldn’t CoJo be more likely than Adams to get the extended look? He still primarily plays 2B and he has more AAA experience.

    • Blake

      CoJo doesn’t really have a place on the big league team though cause Cano plays most every day and he can’t really play anywhere else…..Adams is a RH bat and can play 2B and 3B making him a bit better for for the Yanks current needs. CoJo will probably get some PT though Id say

  • Blake

    I would love to see the WBC become sorta like an extended Futures game ….at least the the MLB affiliated players.

    That woukd eliminate some of the injury concerns for the highly paid big leaguers and also give prospects a chance to show their stuff and promote the future of the game

    • Donny

      I like this idea. However, I would think that the international community wouldn’t be as big of a supporter as you and I might. In past tournaments, many international players have gotten exposure to MLB teams that they normally would not get. I highly doubt that they would want to marginalize their chances at getting signed by an MLB team by competing against lesser talent.

      Then again, with the changes being made to how international players are signed, I doubt many of them would balk at this notion if it was their best chance at exposure.

      • Blake

        Yea there are some issues and I don’t know if it would work…..I personally would just like it….however I realize that many fans aren’t as in to prospects as I and others are and would rather watch big leaguers as well

        • MannyGeee

          Problem being, not positive teams would condone their top prospects out there. Why would I want to risk my highest prospects getting hurt in what is the equivalent of a scrimmage, especially in an environment where I cannot control it (pitch counts, usage, etc)?

          So now its not a Futures Game. Its a pro-am…

          (for the record, it would be awesome to see a legit Futures Game style tournament, I just think teams would play their Olt/Profar/Mustelier level guys out there…)

          • Blake

            Yea I have no idea if it would work…..I just think it’d be cool

            • MannyGeee

              Please not, the reference to a future hall of famer herewith…

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona

      I think just the opposite. It should be embraced like the real World Cup. It should be an honor to be asked and to participate. The Olympics should be an extended Futures Game.

  • jjyank

    “I think it’s fair to wonder why Cervelli is playing in the WBC given the big league opening. Maybe not the smartest career decision.”

    Yeah, this struck me as a bit odd as well. I would think after his demotion back to AAA last year, he’d do whatever he could to impress in spring training and take advantage of the opening.

    Ah well.

    • Captain’s Gift Basket

      Honestly… fine by me.

      I’m rooting for Romine catching CC opening day, as long as he earns it in spring training.

    • A.D.

      Eh, I don’t blame him, take the opportunity to play for your country, if winning the big league job is just off playing in 20 some odd spring games then its a crap-shoot anyways, additionally
      he’s still going to be getting at-bats, and playing against likely greater talent than he would be (and I’m guessing he’s one of Italy’s better players). If he hits in the WBC he’ll probably have just as good a chance of making the team if he hit in regular spring training.

      • jjyank

        Probably true. I do feel like there is some disadvantage there when compared to Romine though. I don’t blame him either, I just found it a bit odd is all.

        That said, I agree with Mr. Gift Basket above, and am rooting for Romine personally anyway.

      • whozat

        Except Cervelli is from Venezuela, so he’s not even really playing for “his” country.

        • Murderers’ Row Boat

          He has dual citizenship since his father is an Italian citizen.

      • jsbrendog

        it isn’t his country. he is venezuelan

        • trr

          the citizenship issue, like this tournament is all B/S.
          It’s a marketing ploy by MLB, nothing more. I hate it.

          • MannyGeee

            I love it. I am actually looking forward to waking up at 2:25 AM to catch a S. Korea/Japan game. And I am not from South Korea OR Japan.

            I love seeing how the fans get up for it in Asian countries, its a lot of fun.

    • Ted Nelson

      It is possible he has more to gain by playing than to lose in terms of the “career decision” part. As pointed out above, it’s not that likely this drastically changes his MLB career. Maybe he becomes coach of Italy down the line, maybe get some sponsorship deals if he becomes the face of baseball in Italy, opens up some camps/cages in Italy…

    • Laz

      I don’t think it will hurt him that much. Cervelli has the best big league experience with the bat of the bunch. Unless Romine really excels he is going to start in AAA.

      • Jd

        This is a non-story. Cervelli didn’t make the ” career decision” without consulting with the team. The Yankees obviously approved.

  • neo

    The Yankees like their Catcher roster depth so much, it probably takes an exceptional spring for Austin to win the job. As bad as they are, Stewart and Cervelli probably don’t make it through waivers, and neither have options left.

  • Greg

    Rather go with Yogi. Least he’s on Twitter.

  • CG

    It’s interesting that you called the WBC tournament meaningless; the WBC is a baseball tournament, as is the regular MLB (albeit a much longer one), and both are baseball games you get to watch and enjoy. I’d say that WBC and MLB are equally meaningful as long as you’re enjoying it.

    • Blake

      I love the WBC…..I love the idea of it….I just think there are some logistical problems with it that really never can be overcome so long as big leaguers are used…..

  • Robert

    Do you think Gumbs 2B-SS will get a camp invite??

    • Mike K

      Gumbs will be in the minor league camp. He’s coming off a major injury, and is (I think) at least 2 years away from needing to be put on the 40-man. And he hasn’t even played A+ yet.

      • Vern Sneaker

        Agree. Toolsy guy with great bat speed and base -stealing potential but with lots to learn both ways. One of those might be a star or might wash out in 2-A types

  • Dan6767

    Thanks Mike Great Post. Will be paying attention to these two guys throughout camp.

  • Andy in Sunny Daytona

    It’s tough to dismiss Corban Joseph like that. He will probably never win a gold glove, but he’s hardly a defensive black hole either. Also, last season he started showing that his gap power started turning into home run power.

  • Dan

    With A-Rod out, I would think that in most ST games Adams will start at 2nd and move to 3rd when they take Youkillis out and bring Joseph in to play 2nd. This way Adams gets time at his natural position and he gets time at 3rd since there is a chance he will have to fill that role if Youkillis goes down with an injury before A-Rod gets back.

    • Laz

      Both should get extended looks. Nix and Nunez will also get looks to see how they are looking.

      • Vern Sneaker

        Not sure why more than a few on this site are so high on CoJo . He’s a fairly marginal prospect, IMO. Adams on the other hand really intrigues me.

  • Kramerica Industries

    I’m surprised there was no mention of Damaso Marte in this column. He missed almost the entire 2009 season thanks to an injury sustained in the 2009 WBC, in part perhaps because he wasn’t fully up in his conditioning at the time.

    • MannyGeee

      More than likely because fuck Damaso Marte, he’s dead to us.

    • Josh

      Moe than likely because Marte came back and dominated the World Series.

      • Kramerica Industries

        Which was great to watch, but holds zero relevance in regards to this topic.

  • Darren

    Something has meaning because you imbue it with meaning. Nothing has intrinsic meaning, except, perhaps, food/water and shelter.

    MLB is not more important than the WBC, unless you think it is.

    • TCMiller30

      I think it is.

  • Andrew Brotherton

    Hey guys, just read a report that Soriano just signed with the Nationals for 2 years 28 million with an option for a 3rd year. Boras strikes again.

    • Blake

      Yanks add #32 overall pick in the draft

      • AndrewYF

        Subject to who Bourn and Lohse sign with.

      • The Real Greg

        I don’t think so under the new CBA. The Nationals forfeit that pick and we get a comp pick.

    • MannyGeee

      Boras did it. well done!

  • Eric

    If Frankie has a good showing in the WBC might that be more valuable than a good spring training? I think he’d have at-bats against better competition there than in some Grapefruit League games, no?

    • Preston

      Well I think that Stewart is his main competition given Romine’s inexperience/lack of success at AAA. And since I don’t think there is any argument that Stewart would likely outhit Cervelli, I think Cervelli showing competence at handling our pitching staff in ST would be the most valuable thing.

      • Ted Nelson

        Probably, but at the same time they’ve known him for a long-time now and they’ll be watching the WBC I’m sure. May have had someone watch him in winterball too.

        He could potentially have something to gain from playing for Italy if he capitalizes on the opportunities. Immediately he might get some sponsorships. Maybe he can coach them down the line. If he becomes somewhat well known in Italy, even in a niche market, there could be opportunities to sell books, summer camps, batting cages, or whatever else whoever likes baseball in Italy (assuming that someone does) might like.

      • RetroRob

        So you think Stewart will outhit Cervelli?

    • CG

      I was thinking the same thing…

      I don’t understand how in the world cervelli could lose to job to stewart. His bat is significantly better, and their defense isn’t nearly different enough to make that fact change either way.

  • Jacob The OG (formerly Jacob)

    Baffled by Cervelli on WBC but hey at least he can represent our (his/mine) country. Viva Italia!

  • RetroRob

    I dismissed any chance of Cervelli playing in the WBC because he’s trying to win the starting job on the NY freaking Yankees in 2013. Not a smart decision at all.

  • gehrig27

    Some comments:

    1) Cervelli is Venezuelan, but he won´t be considered for his country´s team because they already have among the possible catchers to consider Miguel Montero, Salvador Pérez, Wilson Ramos, Héctor Sánchez, Jesús Flores, Carlos Maldonado, etc. and veterans such as Henry Blanco and Ramón Hernández. Hey, I am not sure he will play in the Classic, but Víctor Martínez, recovering from an injury, is also Venezuelan…(Maybe he might be the DH).

    2) I believe Cervelli´s father is Italian. I do not know if he actually has the Italian nationality, but he certainly could. Venezuela accepts double nationality status. I think he already played for Italy during the last World Classic.

    3) But the most important thing is that Cervelli has recently stated in the Venezuelan newspapers that due to his recent injury playing winter ball -apparently he is fully recovered- and the great opportunity he is being offered next Spring training he will not play in the Classic and will try to fully return to the Major Leagues.