Backup catcher last battle as Yanks trim roster

Refsnyder, Whitley among reassignments; Murphy, Romine up for final spot

Backup catcher last battle as Yanks trim roster

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees appear to be down to their final call of Spring Training, with only the backup catcher competition between John Ryan Murphy and Austin Romine left to be decided.

Barring any late moves, general manager Brian Cashman said that the Yankees plan to carry Gregorio Petit as a backup infielder, and the final two unsettled spots in the bullpen have been penciled in for right-hander Chris Martin and left-hander Chasen Shreve.

"The season doesn't start until Monday, and I'm open-minded about things that might present themselves over time, and we can adjust," Cashman said. "As of right now, we know those guys are in good position."

Petit will replace Brendan Ryan, who is set to start the year on the disabled list with a Grade 2 right calf strain. Also on Thursday, the Yankees optioned right-hander Chase Whitley to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and reassigned infielders Nick Noonan and Rob Refsnyder and catcher Eddy Rodriguez to Minor League camp.

Cashman said that the Yankees acquired Petit from the Astros in exchange for cash considerations or a player to be named because he is right-handed, unlike Noonan, and they do not want Refsnyder --the Yanks' No. 5 prospect according to MLB.com -- to begin the season sitting on the bench.

Top Prospects: Refsnyder, NYY

"Refsnyder, I think he had a tremendous camp," Cashman said. "He just needs to finish off some more defense. If we needed to use him, we'd be comfortable enough, but at the same time, he's got some work to do on the defensive side. We want him to be finished off and ready to go whenever we need him."

Because Jose Pirela has not resumed baseball activities following a March 22 concussion, he is also expected to begin the year on the disabled list, according to Cashman. Ryan walked into the clubhouse on crutches Thursday morning and is unlikely to be ready to play in the Majors before May.

Whitley had a strong spring, posting a 1.17 ERA in seven appearances (two starts) spanning 15 1/3 innings, but the Yankees are choosing to carry Esmil Rogers as their lone long reliever. They plan to have Whitley to start at Triple-A, in part because they have an off-day on Tuesday and do not expect to need a second long man.

"Chase did everything he needed to," Cashman said. "Those are not easy conversations. He's a Major League pitcher right now on his way to Scranton."

Whitley strikes out six

Cashman added that the Yankees plan to assign right-hander Andrew Bailey to Class A Advanced Tampa so he can continue pitching without weather concerns. Bailey pitched five scoreless innings this spring, returning from right labrum and capsule surgery, but he is not in contention for the big league roster, because he has not pitched in consecutive games.

Martin impressed the Yankees with 16 strikeouts and one walk in 10 innings, despite a 4.50 ERA. Shreve struck out 12 and walked three in 11 innings, with a 4.91 ERA.

"We're a big believer in ground-ball rates, low walk rates and high strikeouts," Cashman said.

As for the backup catcher race, Cashman declined to say if he has received any trade interest in Romine, who is out of Minor League options. The Phillies and Padres are known to have some level of interest, though. Murphy completed play Thursday batting .211, while Romine was hitting .182. Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that defense will be the priority in the decision.

"We probably won't make that decision until Saturday night, that's the bottom line," Girardi said. "It's tough. It's a tough decision. I think about it a lot. And the unfortunate thing is that you know you're going to disappoint someone, and that's the bad part."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.