Because Stewart is out of Minor League options, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said that the 30-year-old right-handed hitter will be on the Opening Day roster as the backup catcher, with a stunned Francisco Cervelli being optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
"It's not my decision, and that's it," Cervelli said. "I'm disappointed with this, but that's never going to change anything. All my life, I've had to do things, and I've had to do it double, triple. If they want me to prove that I can catch in the big leagues, I'll go and prove it, that I have to be here."
Cervelli homered on Wednesday in the Yankees' 8-3 Grapefruit League victory over the Mets, and he had been told all spring that he would be the backup catcher. Cashman said that a lingering disc injury to projected Triple-A catcher Austin Romine has impacted the club's depth.
"We feel that Cervelli is a Major League backup, without a doubt," Cashman said. "Now, we're back to where we were before the Romine injury, even though it's not a good situation for Cervy to go back to Triple-A. Organizationally, we're in a good place with Russell Martin, Stewart and Cervelli."
Stewart, 30, has hit .200 with a .273 on-base percentage and three home runs in 93 career Major League games, while throwing out 28 of 72 would-be basestealers.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that breaking the news to Cervelli was especially difficult. Cervelli was upset as he spoke with reporters and has been a popular figure on the Yankees' roster since being called up from the Minor Leagues in 2009.
"This was a tough one," Girardi said. "Our depth for catching, with Romine being hurt, was really thin. We know how quick it can happen for a catcher. It was tough. As tough as I've had to do."
The 26-year-old Kontos appeared in seven games as a reliever with the Yankees last season, posting a 3.00 ERA and striking out six batters in as many innings. In five Grapefruit League outings this year, Kontos worked 6 1/3 innings of two-run ball, striking out seven and walking one.
"I felt like I was in a good spot with this organization, whether or not I broke with the team," Kontos said. "I think I've showed enough this Spring Training and last season, when I pitched up there, that I was able to do it and hold my own. If it wasn't out of camp, I think it would have been soon, so hopefully, I'm in a better situation there, now that I'm headed that way."