Austin Romine is back and finally healthy

Extensive rehab has Yankees catching prospect back on track
08/13/2012 11:21 AM ET
By Josh Horton

Austin Romine has recovered from a debilitating back injury to resume his path to the Majors.(AP)
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre catcher Austin Romine wasn’t even supposed to crouch behind the plate in 2012. However, after some hard work and extensive rehab in Tampa, Fla., he is back and ready to go.

The Yankees’ second-round selection in the 2007 draft was sidelined the majority of the 2012 season with lower back problems. Following his time in Tampa, Romine made the trek to upstate to New York to join the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees on Aug. 7 and made his debut with the club the following day at Frontier Field against the Rochester Red Wings, going 1-for-4 with a double.

“It’s definitely good to be back,” a relieved Romine said. “I wasn’t even supposed to play this year, so it’s just good to get back. I put a lot of hard work into getting back, many, many months of work so I could come back. It feels good to get out of Tampa and be back here.”

A huge reason the California native was able to make it back this season was due to countless hours of core work, which included more sit-ups than he has ever done in his whole career.

“There was a lot of core work involved and so many sit-ups. I have never done so many sit-ups in my life,” Romine said. “There were a lot of back exercises and just a lot of work in general that needed to be done so I can get back to being on the field. “

Now that the work is done to get back on the field, Romine is working hard to get back to the big leagues. After spending the bulk of the 2011 with the Trenton Thunder, Romine was called up to Scranton when Jesus Montero cashed in his ticket to the Bronx as a September call-up.

After less than a week in Triple-A he was promoted to New York and made his Major League debut on Sept. 11 in Los Angeles as a defensive replacement in the seventh inning. Ironically the man he replaced in the seventh was none other than Montero, who also made his big-league debut behind the plate that day.

“It was exciting being in Anaheim. I got to make my debut in front of all of my friends and family,” Romine said. “My brother wasn’t playing that game, but he was in the dugout. It was cool to see my brother being the only one on the railing watching the whole game. It was definitely a cool experience to be able to share that with my brother, and for us to be able to give that back to my mom and my dad who have done everything for me.”

Romine said he didn’t feel any added pressure being in an organization with so many catching prospects. He feels it has made him a better player and is always making him work harder and harder to get to where he wants to be.

“Anywhere you go there is going to be a guy above you and a guy below you. There’s always guys pushing to try and take your job and I am always pushing to try and take someone else’s job,” Romine said. “It drives you a little more, because you have some extra fire. It doesn’t change anything, because I still go out there and play 100 percent every single pitch of every game.”

The reason Romine is so attractive to Yankees brass is he can throw guys out, call a great game, and even hit a little too. Being a defensive catcher is something Romine has always prided himself on and he bought into even more since being drafted by the Yankees.

“Catching definitely comes first. The Yankees have stressed that, I have adopted that and I have bought into that 100 percent,” Romine said. “Catching comes first and that’s my job. But, you know I take a lot of pride in my hitting too. I don’t want to just be a defensive catcher. I want to be above average hitter and I have always been an above average hitter so I just need to keep doing what I am doing.”

Romine will get the opportunity to get used to the speed of the game and live pitching as he continues his rehab assignment with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees. While some people believe it would be very hard to catch with a bad back, Romine says it actually helps to keep him stretched out during the game.

“Actually catching has helped me out a lot and believe it or not keeps me stretched out,” Romine said. “I wouldn’t be able to catch if I didn’t do what I needed to do in Tampa to be able to catch for nine innings at a time. I actually enjoy catching and it keeps me lose. If I don’t do anything it actually hurts because I’m not constantly stretching it out.”

If Romine plays to his potential in Triple-A he could be a prime candidate to be back in the Major Leagues. Getting the call for the first time is a day Romine will always remember as a blur.

“It was a little unexpected. I was at home for two weeks and thought my season was over,” Romine said. “The call was completely out of the blue, but it was really awesome and a dream come true. They basically just said hey we’re going to call you up and after that it was just like a blur. All I wanted to know was when I was flying out.”

Josh Horton is Media Relations Assistant for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees.and  has an MLBlog called Above the PlateFollow Josh on Twitter: @J_HortonMU comments