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Francisco Cervelli out 4-8 weeks with broken foot, giving Jesus Montero a shot at backup job

Mar 4, 2011, 3:06 PM EDT

New York Yankees catcher Cervelli smiles as he steps out of the batting cage at the team's spring training camp in Tampa

Francisco Cervelli has been diagnosed with a broken foot and will spend the next four weeks in a walking boot, with Ben Shpigel of the New York Times reporting that 6-8 weeks on the sidelines is “likely.”

Cervelli was slated to back up Russell Martin and according to Marc Carig of the Newark Star Ledger the Yankees are not considering using Jorge Posada in that role, which means the door is suddenly wide open for 21-year-old stud prospect Jesus Montero to crack the Opening Day roster.

Montero’s bat is far more MLB-ready than his glove at this point and there are plenty of doubts about whether he’ll be able to handle catching long term even once he develops fully, but an impressive spring could force the Yankees’ hand after he hit .289 with 21 homers and an .870 OPS in 123 games at Triple-A last season and ranked third on Baseball America‘s list of MLB’s top prospects last month behind only Bryce Harper of the Nationals and Mike Trout of the Angels.

Other backup options in Yankees camp are Gustavo Molina, who’s a 29-year-old career minor leaguer, and Austin Romine, who played last season at Double-A as a 21-year-old and ranked 98th on the same Baseball America list. And, of course, the Yankees could always go shopping for another veteran stopgap if they don’t feel like pushing Montero quite yet.

  1. uyf1950 - Mar 4, 2011 at 3:20 PM

    If Martin’s ready to assume the every day catching duties with just brief spells of relief I say bring Montero up after all Posada can also spell him if really really necessary. It’s better Montero get real on the job training on the big league team anyway. He certainly is no worse then any other option and a much better choice in reality.

    • BC - Mar 4, 2011 at 4:09 PM

      100% agree. Worst case, you have to put Posada out there for a few games? Jeez, I’d think many teams wouldn’t mind that. Not like Posada hasn’t caught in 5 years. You can still get him out there for 20-30 games. Meantime, let’s see what Montero can do. Why not?

    • yankeesfanlen - Mar 4, 2011 at 5:53 PM

      Shall I list every Yankee that has been made a starter at a position due to injury and never looked back?

  2. JBerardi - Mar 4, 2011 at 3:32 PM

    I’d peg the odds of the Yankees using their best offensive prospect (possibly the world’s best offensive prospect) as a backup catcher somewhere between 0% and 0%. Not giving him regular ABs would be player development malpractice of the highest order.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Mar 4, 2011 at 3:43 PM

      On the other hand, nobody questions the kid’s ability to hit, even a little bit. However, having a chance to learn the big league pitching staff, and work with Martin and Posada (not to mention Girardi and Tony Pena) every day might be the best thing for his development as a catcher. With Martin (and maybe Posada) ahead of him on the depth chart, there is a chance between 99.9% and 100% that he will go for stretches as the starter when they are hurt, or just take over the job outright due to their ineffectiveness.

      I suppose the dream scenario is Martin and Montero both being studs so the Yankees can trade Martin for a starting pitcher.

      • JBerardi - Mar 4, 2011 at 9:11 PM

        The flip side of that is, how long do you want him screwing around with this catching stuff, when it’s keeping his bat out of the lineup? Do the Yankees, in the AL East, have the luxury of giving up those runs while Montero keeps trying to learn a position he may ultimately never stick at?

        I get the allure of a power hitting catcher, but sometimes I think hitters are TOO good to be catchers. The physical load of catching is immense, and it reduces a player’s ability to hit and to stay in the lineup. So is it worth diminishing Montero’s greatest skill, just so he can be a sub-standard catcher?

    • Alex K - Mar 4, 2011 at 3:47 PM

      I agree. I think it would be bad news to have him not play everyday somewhere.

  3. yankeesgameday - Mar 4, 2011 at 6:02 PM

    The timing of Cervelli’s injury is actually the best possible thing for evaluating Montero because we still have three weeks of Spring Training left. Montero will get a lot more playing time in Tampa when the games don’t matter so that the team can put him against real big league talent. They already know that he can excel in AAA, but as Girardi mentioned, they know what Cervelli can do against other big leaguers, now we get the luxury of seeing if Montero can handle the pitching staff and the hit against the best pitchers.

    He started yesterday and caught Ivan Nova and worked with AJ Burnett in a bullpen session. If for one second they don’t think he is ready, then Girardi has already said that Gustavo Molina has been a major league catcher and can be the temporary backup to Russell Martin if they want to focus on Montero’s development.

    I for one am very excited about the direction of this position for the Yanks. Montero will be the catcher for the next decade so one more year, or six more months in the minors won’t lower his impact on this team in the long run,

  4. uyf1950 - Mar 4, 2011 at 11:23 PM

    I think people here are discounting Montero to soon as a catcher. Everything I have read so far this spring says that Montero is improving each day in his defensive catching abilities. I think those people that are dismissing his abilities behind the plate are making a big mistake. Personally I believe he has a bright future in his chosen position, catcher. Girardi has already stated many times Posada will DH, Martin seems to be well on his way to handling the majority of the catching duties in 2011. Montero will learn a lot more with the ML club watching, playing, working with the pitchers that he will eventually catch and being mentored by Posada and Girardi.

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