Yanks' backup catcher battle three-horse race

No. 3 prospect Sanchez competing with Corporan, Romine

Yanks' backup catcher battle three-horse race

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees came into camp expected to "unleash the Kraken," as general manager Brian Cashman put it, and carry Gary Sanchez as their backup catcher. Carlos Corporan and Austin Romine have turned it into a legitimate competition.

With two weeks remaining before Opening Day, questions about the identity of Brian McCann's understudy produce little more than shrugs in the clubhouse. Sanchez has struggled offensively, producing one hit in 15 at-bats, and that has opened the door to consider alternate options.

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"I think it's too early to tell," manager Joe Girardi said. "We'll watch them continue to work with the pitchers and then make a decision. I think they've all done a pretty good job. They're going to make that decision tough."

While Sanchez's future is bright -- he is rated as the Yankees' No. 3 prospect by MLBPipeline.com, coming off a monster showing in the Arizona Fall League -- Romine could be making his last stand as a member of the organization. The 27-year-old, drafted by the club back in 2007, is out of Minor League options.

Rated as a defense-first catcher, Romine has displayed some pop this spring, stroking five hits (with three doubles) in 18 at-bats. Sanchez may have the strongest arm in camp, but catching coach Tony Pena said Romine's throwing has been right there with him, evidence that he came in ready to battle.

Romine's two-run double

"Nothing has ever been handed to me, so I've always come in with the same mentality. It's never changed," Romine said. "I'm fighting for a job, fighting for what I want. It's a little more relaxed this year; I've been here for nine years, going on my 10th. I know what to expect and what needs to be done."

Romine said that his goal was to prove that the game has slowed down for him and that he can produce consistent results at the plate. The other 29 teams may be watching, but Romine said that first and foremost, his focus is on going north with the Yankees.

"I've been a Yankee my whole career," Romine said. "They've given me and my family everything that I have, multiple opportunities, and I would love nothing more than to make it here. Right now, I'm just trying to break camp and get an 'NY' on my shirt."

Corporan boasts the most big league experience of the trio, having played in 232 games with the Brewers, Astros and Rangers in a six-year career. He also is better regarded for his receiving than his bat, producing two hits in 17 at-bats (.118) this spring.

"I'm a guy who has almost five years' experience in the big leagues. As a manager, I would like to have that, but it's not my call," Corporan said.

Diaz's throw gets Blanco at home

A non-roster invitee, Corporan has an out in his contract set for late March. He said that other teams did offer contracts this past offseason, but the Yankees were an easy call for him; his older brother, Elvis, was a catcher and third baseman in New York's farm system from 1999-2003.

"Everybody wants to play with the Yankees; you kidding me?" Corporan said. "Growing up, I was a Yankees fan, and now being here in this locker putting on this uniform makes me proud and makes my family proud. There's a lot of Puerto Ricans who like the Yankees. If I make this team, it's going to be a really, really huge accomplishment in my career."

There is one other factor to consider; if Sanchez spends 35 days in the Minors, it would delay his free agency for another season. Cashman has said that the Yankees will not make their decision based upon that. If they judge only on what they've seen on the field, Pena said that there is no easy call.

"If you watch the games, you notice there's not many mistakes," Pena said. "They do the things they are supposed to do. Corporan is a veteran and the only thing you have to do is just remind him things; he can pick it up. Romine is receiving the ball so well, blocking the ball so well, and Sanchez is receiving the ball and blocking the ball well. We're happy to have it."

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