Chris Stewart watched the Yankees offseason from afar, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Count him among those surprised by his team’s passivity in addressing their catching situation this winter.

“You always think that (the team will make a move),” Stewart said earlier this week outside the team’s minor-league complex. “It’s the Yankees. They always have Plan F.”

Instead, the club allowed Russell Martin to depart for Pittsburgh on a two-year, $17 million deal. They stood pat as free agents like Mike Napoli and A.J. Pierzynski signed elsewhere. At first, general manager Brian Cashman’s insistence on relying upon internal options appeared a bluff. But with pitchers and catchers set to report on Tuesday, Cashman has not diverted from his public plan. Stewart and Francisco Cervelli are poised to split time for this team behind the plate, with Austin Romine as an outside contender.

To Stewart, the situation represents “a new chapter.” For more than a decade, he has arrived at camp each spring without illusions about earning a starting job in the majors. As he approaches his 31st birthday later this month, he’s created a niche for himself as a useful defensive catcher, a reputation earned as a backup for five different organizations in 11 professional seasons.

Offense will never be his calling card. His average sits at .217. His on-base plus slugging percentage is a measly .583. He’s never had more than 183 plate appearances in a big-league season. Still, he understands his defensive value.

“I can still win ballgames without getting a base hit,” Stewart said. “I take care of the pitching staff. If I’m back there and the pitcher doesn’t give up too many runs, we have a pretty good shot to win that ballgame.”