TAMPA, Fla. -- Gustavo Molina's chances of beginning the season as the Yankees' backup catcher have increased, and the team is strongly considering carrying the 29-year-old as Russell Martin's understudy.
Prospects Jesus Montero and Austin Romine captured most of the attention this spring as the Yankees look for a fill-in for the injured Francisco Cervelli, but Molina's previous big league experience is earning points.
"We've given the young kids a lot of looks and we're giving Molina some looks now too, so that we know we feel like we're making the right decision," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Molina was tapped to catch Freddy Garcia's Minor League start on Thursday, an assignment that was originally scheduled to go to Montero. The Yankees wanted another opportunity to see Molina instead.
2010 Spring Training - New York Yankees
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Not related to the Molina catching trio of Bengie, Jose and Yadier, Molina has appeared in 23 Major League games in 2007, '08 and '10 with the White Sox, Orioles, Mets and Red Sox, batting .122 (5-for-41) with no homers and an RBI.
Last season, he was 1-for-7 (.143) in a Red Sox uniform. However, the Yankees have said that they will weigh defense much more heavily than offense; Molina has only one hit in 13 at-bats this spring (.077).
There was thought when Cervelli suffered a broken left foot in early March that the backup job could be Montero's to lose, and he did receive more at-bats than either Molina or Romine.
But the Yankees believe Montero -- batting .222 (8-for-36) entering play Friday -- started to press and it affected his defense, which continues to be organizationally rated behind Romine's.
"Part of it can be pressing, there's no doubt," Girardi said. "I don't know how, as a young kid, you don't get excited about the possibility of making a club for the first time in your life."
Girardi also suggested on Friday that taking either Montero or Romine as a backup for a month might stunt their development, instead of permitting them to play regularly at Triple-A and Double-A, respectively.
"That's a decision that we have to make -- or do you want to go with a veteran guy that has caught in the big leagues and knows how to do it?" Girardi said.
Montero prepared if he needs more seasoning
TAMPA, Fla. -- Jesus Montero knew he had a great opportunity to break camp as the Yankees' backup catcher, but the slugging prospect will understand if he begins the year back at Triple-A.
The Yankees appear to be leaning toward having the 21-year-old open the campaign at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for more seasoning, with journeyman Gustavo Molina's chances of making the squad increasing.
"I'll be fine. I'll be working hard," Montero said. "My moment is going to be there. You've got to wait sometimes for good things. I'll go to Triple-A, work, play every day, and do what I have to do."
Earlier in the month, Montero seemed to be favored over Molina and Austin Romine to fill in for injured backup Francisco Cervelli when the team goes to New York.
While he has struggled offensively, batting .222 (8-for-36) with two doubles entering play on Friday, the Yankees are more concerned with Montero's defense.
While the opinion is that Montero's blocking, receiving and throwing have improved since last year, manager Joe Girardi believes that Montero's spring troubles at the plate bled into his catching.
"I've actually thought that his defense has improved the last two weeks in Spring Training," Girardi said. "He went through a little rough spell and I thought he played better. Part of it can be pressing, there's no doubt."
Montero said that he is happy with his defensive work this spring and remains hopeful that he'll be able to wear Yankees pinstripes in April.
"They'll decide everything," Montero said. "I'm doing my best out here, I'm doing my job. I'm doing whatever they want me to do. I feel comfortable right now. I don't know what decisions they're going to make, but I'm happy."
Granderson's status for opener still uncertain
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees are still unsure if they will have Curtis Granderson in their Opening Day lineup.
Granderson, 30, went through light agility drills and running on Friday at George M. Steinbrenner Field, but the team is still taking a conservative route to treating his strained right oblique.
"It's obviously still in question because he hasn't picked up a bat," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We won't really know that until he takes some swings."
If Granderson is not available for March 31, Brett Gardner could move to center field while Andruw Jones takes over in left field.
The Yankees also acquired outfielder Chris Dickerson from the Brewers on Friday in exchange for right-hander Sergio Mitre, presenting another choice to fill in. Dickerson has a Minor League option remaining in the event the Yankees wish to send him to Triple-A instead.
"The guy's got some tools," Girardi said. "He's hit for average in his career, and he can hit some homers too."
In other injury updates, Nick Swisher reported no problems after fouling a ball off his left instep on Wednesday.
Swisher received treatment during Thursday's off-day and could have played the outfield on Friday, though Girardi decided to use him as the designated hitter instead with Jorge Posada and Alex Rodriguez both receiving days off.
Eric Chavez went 3-for-3 with a solo home run, single and double in the Yankees' 6-4 win over the Astros on Friday. He showed no ill effects from the right calf spasms that forced him to miss some playing time this week. ... Russell Martin said he was safe on a play at home plate in the fifth inning, though he was called out by home-plate umpire D.J. Rayburn. Girardi even argued the call, later saying, "I figure you've got to practice." ... Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada were both given nights off. ... Granderson (strained right oblique) will increase running and throwing drills on Saturday. He may be able to swing a bat by Sunday.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.