- Joba Chamberlain (ankle, elbow) will throw live batting practice on Monday, his first time facing hitters as part of his rehab. Brian Cashman wouldn’t put an exact date on it, but he expects that the right-hander ““will help us” this season. In other news, Joba got rear-ended on the way to the Tampa complex yesterday but is fine.
- David Aardsma (elbow) will appear in his second minor league rehab game tomorrow, and Cashman confirmed that if “everything goes all right, in 31, 32 days, he’ll join us.” Aardsma’s 30-day rehab clock started earlier this week, putting him on target for a return shortly after the All-Star break.
- Austin Romine (back) has been playing catch and hitting off a tee in Tampa. “Assuming there are no setbacks,” he will play this year according to Cashman. A few weeks ago we heard that a July return was in the cards.
- Pedro Feliciano (shoulder) will throw off a half-mound today and a full mound on Tuesday. He expects to pitch this season but I wouldn’t count on it. Maybe he gets healthy in time to serve as a third lefty reliever during the expanded rosters in September, but anything they get out of him is gravy.
Via Ken Rosenthal, the Diamondbacks called the Yankees about the availability of Austin Romine prior to signing Miguel Montero to his big extension. Talks never went anywhere because New York wanted left-handed pitching prospect Tyler Skaggs in return. Arizona called a number of other teams — including the Blue Jays about Travis D’Arnaud — and found the prices prohibitive, so they re-upped Montero.
Romine recently resumed baseball activities after sitting out the start of the season with a back injury. Remember, D’Backs GM Kevin Towers spent 2010 with the Bombers and is surely familiar with the young backstop. Catching depth is important, so I’m glad to see the Yankees place a premium on it.
Got a pair of injury updates from the minor leagues…
- Eduardo Nunez (thumb) has started taking ground balls in Tampa and should return to Triple-A Empire State soon. He was placed on the DL a week or two ago after essentially jamming his thumb. [Andrew Marchand]
- Austin Romine (back) has been cleared for baseball activities, something he’s been unable to do since Spring Training. Last week we heard that he was going to be out until July with an inflamed disc in his back, which fits with today’s news assuming they’re going to be conservative with his workouts over the next few weeks. [Romine on Twitter]
Via Dan Martin, catcher Austin Romine is going to be out until at least July with an inflamed disc in his back. He missed time with a similar injury last summer and hasn’t played at all this season, including Spring Training. “He saw [Dr. Watkins] in Los Angeles about four weeks ago and is on his third week of rehab,” said Brian Cashman.
This is essentially a lost season for the 23-year-old Romine, who came into 2012 as the club’s best upper-level catching prospect. He was slated for his first full season at Triple-A and would have had a very real chance to usurp Frankie Cervelli as the backup catcher and cement his place in the club’s long-term catching picture. Instead, the Yankees had to make the George Kontos-for-Chris Stewart trade to replace the depth and Romine’s long-term outlook is a big question mark.
The Yankees made a somewhat surprising move yesterday by claiming Craig Tatum off waivers from the Diamondbacks, surprising only because a third string catcher didn’t seem to be high up on the priority list. Sure enough, we later learned that incumbent third stringer Austin Romine had suffered a setback while recovering from a back problem that has kept him out basically all spring. The Yankees suddenly had a need behind the plate, especially since Frankie Cervelli isn’t exactly Mr. Durable.
Tatum, 29, is nothing special, and I mean that in the nicest way possible. There’s a reason he was on waivers, and in fact this is the third time he’s been claimed since October. The Orioles, Astros, and D’Backs have each deemed him expendable this offseason. Tatum does his best work on the defensive side of the ball, with Baseball America saying he’s “a solid receiver who frames pitches, blocks balls well and calls a good game” in addition to having “above-average arm strength” in their 2009 Prospect Handbook, the last time he made the annual. A .256 wOBA in 299 big league plate appearances is an accurate representation of his offensive ability.
It’s worth noting that Tatum is out of options and can’t be sent to the minors without first clearing waivers. I know he’s already been claimed three times this winter, but chances are he will clear the fourth time. Since the Yankees were awarded the winning claim from Arizona, that means Tatum went through the entire NL unclaimed as well as the entire AL since the Yankees finished with the best record in the league last year. New York was dead last on the waiver priority list, so he would have cleared if it wasn’t for them. Chances are he’ll clear whenever they try to send him down.
There’s not much to say about Tatum himself, but what is important is what he represents. Tatum is a reminder that catching depth has a way of disappearing quickly, just like pitching. Things looked great a few months ago when the Yankees had Russell Martin, Jesus Montero, Cervelli, and Romine at the upper levels, but now less than two weeks before Opening Day they’re down to Martin, Cervelli, Tatum, and a hobbled Romine. The herd has already been thinned out.
This is something that goes beyond the 2012 Yankees as well. Romine figured to be a somewhat important part of the club’s future following the Montero trade, especially since Martin is due to become a free agent after the season and the Yadier Molina contract has changed the salary landscape. Now Romine is a question mark because of recurring back injuries. If he continues to have problems, the team’s long-term catching situation is going to be a real concern. It’s an important position, arguably the most important on the field, and the depth the Yankees appeared to have a few months ago has been compromised. Let’s hope for some positive catching developments this summer.
Via Mark Feinsand and Chad Jennings, Austin Romine has suffered a setback while attempting to recover from the back inflammation that has sidelined him for most of spring. He had resumed workouts not too long ago, but felt a “little pinch” at some point recently. The setback led to the Craig Tatum waiver claim. Romine dealt with a similar problem last season, so this is an obvious concern. Back problems are scary, and recurring back problems are even scarier.
Via Mike Ashmore, Austin Romine and D.J. Mitchell have named the 2011 Kevin Lawn Award winners. That’s a fancy way of saying they were named the Yankees’ minor league hitter and pitcher of the year for last season. Romine produced a .332 wOBA in 85 Double-A games last year before brief promotions to Triple-A and the big leagues. He also won the award in 2009. Mitchell pitched to a 3.18 ERA (3.96 FIP) in a farm system-leading 161.1 IP for Triple-A Scranton last summer. Congrats to both.