Chavez, Nunez make Yankees' roster
Pena, Montero, Romine among those sent to Minors
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees have whittled their spring decisions to a remaining few, announcing several transactions after Monday's contest against the Rays was cancelled due to rain.
New York has added six-time Gold Glove Award winner Eric Chavez to the roster as a reserve corner infielder while selecting Eduardo Nunez over Ramiro Pena as the backup middle infielder.
The Yankees also removed prospects Jesus Montero and Austin Romine from the competition to serve as the backup to catcher Russell Martin, leaving journeyman Gustavo Molina as the last contender standing.
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Adding Chavez to the roster was simply a formality after he batted .405 with one homer and four RBIs in 42 at-bats this spring. He was signed to a one-year deal worth $1.5 million and will serve as a backup to Alex Rodriguez at third base and Mark Teixeira at first.
"We feel that he's healthy, and we feel that it's a good bat on a day that we rest Alex or Tex," manager Joe Girardi said. "You get a pretty big bat back there. I'm really pleased with what he did."
Girardi said that his toughest decision was selecting Nunez over Pena, considering Pena's service to the team over the past couple of seasons, but Nunez offers better speed and hitting.
"We thought [Nunez] had a better spring," Girardi said. "He played pretty well in the month of September last year. He's probably a little bit better basestealer, and he's hit a little bit more in the Minor Leagues."
Though Molina seems to be in line to serve as the backup catcher, Girardi has not yet added him to the 25-man roster, because it is still possible the Yankees could acquire another catcher before Wednesday.
A top-rated prospect, Montero seemed to be the front-runner to grab the backup job when Francisco Cervelli went down with a fractured left foot in early March, but his defense skidded when he struggled offensively.
"I think Montero is a much better player than he showed offensively," Girardi said. "I think he pressed. I told him, 'Look, when you do come up one day, try to learn from this experience.' "
Montero's goal going into camp was to show enough to make the big league roster, but understands the Yankees' preference that he continue to develop by playing every day.
"I have more to come in the future, that's the way I think," Montero said. "I've got to keep working hard on the little things that I have to work on, keep doing them well and try to do my best. I had a wonderful opportunity to be in the big leagues and show them I can play there."
The Yankees are not ready to announce their 12th pitcher, who will be effectively replacing the injured Pedro Feliciano on the roster. Girardi named Luis Ayala and Steve Garrison as in-house candidates.
Montero, Pena, outfielder Justin Maxwell and infielder Doug Bernier have been optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and Romine has been optioned to Double-A Trenton.
Also among Monday's announcements was the news that the Yankees are in the process of selling the rights to right-hander Romulo Sanchez to a Japanese team. Sanchez is out of Minor League options.
In addition, infielder Ronnie Belliard was released after hitting .136 in 22 spring at-bats, and right-hander Mark Prior will remain behind with Class A Tampa as he continues his transition to relief work.
"I know there's still a lot of things I can improve on and work on, being in different situations," Prior said. "I think overall I surprised a lot of people that I can still hold my own at this level. I know I can."
Girardi said that Prior, who is being kept in Florida because of the better weather, can expect to be promoted to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and has a good chance of pitching in the Majors this year.
In the Yankees' opinion, Prior needs to be able to throw multiple innings and pitch on back-to-back days before the club will consider promoting him.
"It's hard to have a reliever who's a one- or two-inning reliever if he can't go back-to-back," Girardi said. "He has thrown the ball well, and I think he's going to throw the ball better as time goes on, if he stays healthy."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.