Chris Stewart, the newest Yankee, arrived in the clubhouse in St. Petersburg today after a 13-hour commute from San Francisco to Tampa -- a seven-hour drive from his newly-rented home in Pacifica to his actual residence in Riverside, California, followed by a six-hour red eye flight to Tampa that got him here at 9 a.m.
"Running on fumes right now,'' Stewart said. "But to play in the big leagues for the New York Yankees, it's worth it.''
Stewart was acquired in a trade for George Kontos, and the deal caused ripples throughout Yankeeland because it resulted in the demotion of Francisco Cervelli to AAA Scranton. Stewart inherits the role of backup catcher to Russell Martin while Cervelli goes to work tonight behind the plate for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees in their season opener against the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs.
"Cervelli is one of the best 60 catchers in baseball, without a doubt,'' GM Brian Cashman said. "It's about depth. Chris Stewart is an exceptional defensive player, right out of the Jose Molina mold. Cervelli is obviously a better hitter than he is and I think an exceptional defensive player too.''
Stewart had been a Yankee for all of three days in 2008, appearing in one game and going 0-for-3. Still, he was greeted warmly in the clubhouse by the players who were here at the time. Asked to describe what he liked about Stewart, a career .200 hitter with three HRs and 13 RBI spread over five big-league seasons, Joe Girardi said, "When you talk about Chris Stewart, you’re talking about a defensive catcher, a top defensive catcher.''
When Cashman and Girardi's assessments were repeated to him, Stewart said, "That’s my goal, to take care of the pitchers behind the plate and whatever I can chip in offensively, I'm going to take as well. But to be touted as a defensive catcher is an honor for me.''