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Francisco Cervelli is the Yankees’ starting catcher

Mar 13, 2013, 1:20 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

Last year around this time the Yankees demoted Francisco Cervelli to Triple-A. He remained there for basically the entire season and hit just .246 with a .657 OPS in 99 games.

And now he’s in position to be the Yankees’ starting catcher.

Yesterday manager Joe Girardi told Andy McCullough of the Newark Star Ledger that it’s “fair to say” Cervelli will be the Opening Day catcher after the Yankees reassigned catching prospect Austin Romine to the minors.

Cervelli’s only remaining in-house competition is Chris Stewart, so it’s not much of a fight. But while Cervelli is no one’s idea of a great starting catcher option and his performance at Triple-A last season raises questions about whether his skills have declined at age 27, his numbers from 2009-2011 (.275 AVG, .341 OBP, .699 OPS) are decent enough to be a regular at a position where the average player hit just .246 with a .718 OPS.

  1. randygnyc - Mar 13, 2013 at 1:37 PM

    Cervelli worked on his receiving skills, tirelessly since his demotion. He admits he got into some bad habits. His imitation of tony pena’s catching stance rubbed the coaches the wrong way. His throw to 2nd also was ineffective. Now, he’s corrected those issues. Apparently, that was enough to impress girardi. He certainly hits better than Stewart and the Yankees love Cervelli’s energy.

  2. proudlycanadian - Mar 13, 2013 at 1:38 PM

    I have no problem with Cervelli as the Yankees starting catcher.

    • zzalapski - Mar 13, 2013 at 1:59 PM

      You would also have no problem with Cervelli as the Yankees starting 1B, 3B, LF, DH…

      • proudlycanadian - Mar 13, 2013 at 2:58 PM

        Agreed! No problem!

  3. Ben - Mar 13, 2013 at 1:40 PM

  4. If the Shoe Fits - Mar 13, 2013 at 1:43 PM

    Fist pumps for everyone!

  5. skeleteeth - Mar 13, 2013 at 1:46 PM

    Abbondanza!

    • deathmonkey41 - Mar 13, 2013 at 2:19 PM

      Shane Victorino went on record as saying this is a proud moment for himself and his fellow I-Talians everywhere!

      • skeleteeth - Mar 13, 2013 at 2:38 PM

        He must feel right at home in the North End. Little hard to get to the ballpark on gameday though.

      • deathmonkey41 - Mar 13, 2013 at 3:50 PM

        I just hope he’s not getting into too many arguments there about whether it’s called Sauce or Gravy.

  6. Jeremy T - Mar 13, 2013 at 1:54 PM

    I’m cautiously not-pessimistic

  7. uyf1950 - Mar 13, 2013 at 1:57 PM

    Cervelli while being upset/disappointed/angry after being sent down last year has preserved and in my opinion deserves to be rewarded and given a shot at starting.

  8. cosanostra71 - Mar 13, 2013 at 2:03 PM

    He can’t be much worse than Jeff Mathis was for the Angels, right?

  9. jetshorty - Mar 13, 2013 at 2:04 PM

    I don’t see what the big deal is. Russell Martin barely hit .200 last year. everyone makes or sound like Cervelli is replacing Johnny Bench.

    • turdfurgerson68 - Mar 13, 2013 at 2:32 PM

      Don’t think you can say it any better than this

      • Kevin S. - Mar 13, 2013 at 2:53 PM

        Sure you can. Saying that Martin barely hit .200 last year completely ignores his power, patience and receiving skills. No, he’s not Johnny Bench, but he was a quality catcher, much better than Cervelli is likely to show this year. Only mentioning his batting average obscures that.

    • pisano - Mar 13, 2013 at 3:29 PM

      jetshorty…..One hell of a good point, Martin had to bust his ass in the last month to get to .211, but he did hit some homers. If Cervelli can hit .240 and play some defense I’m sure the Yankees will be happy. One thing about Cervelli, he brings a lot of energy to the team, and he’ll give you 100 % all the time, good luck to him.

  10. sleepyirv - Mar 13, 2013 at 3:07 PM

    I’m shocked they haven’t asked Posada to come back.

  11. turdfurgerson68 - Mar 13, 2013 at 3:42 PM

    Kevin S. –

    Sure you can. Saying that Martin barely hit .200 last year completely ignores his power, patience and receiving skills. No, he’s not Johnny Bench, but he was a quality catcher, much better than Cervelli is likely to show this year. Only mentioning his batting average obscures that.

    ==============================================================

    Yeah, you’re right. Good thing Jetshorty didn’t mention his embarrassing .713 OPS or his 89 hits or his pathetic .241 caught stealing percentage.

    Glad you think hitting 21 HR’s makes up for all that.

    • Kevin S. - Mar 13, 2013 at 3:59 PM

      When you look at the pool of catchers, a .713 OPS is hardly embarrassing. Obviously if his batting average is low, he’s not going to have a very high number of hits, but if BA isn’t illuminating, hit totals aren’t going to do any better. As for his defense, advanced metrics are weakest of all among catchers, but he scored very high in Mike Fast’s framing and blocking studies and was generally regarded as having handled the staff well.

      But keep pretending I think his 21 HR were his only positives.

      • turdfurgerson68 - Mar 13, 2013 at 4:14 PM

        All those ‘positives’ for a mere 8 million+ per season…Cashman must be out of his mind then for not resigning him!

        Cervelli’s salary = $500k

        Get real..you think Martin is worth 8+ mil a season?

      • Kevin S. - Mar 13, 2013 at 4:37 PM

        Actually, that’s somewhat of a bargain for a roughly league-averagish catcher. Do I think the difference between Russell Martin and Francisco Cervelli is worth more than $8 million? Yes, I do. For all the ragging on Martin’s offense, Cervelli’s is even worse, and while he supposedly improved his receiving skills in SWB last year, I doubt they’re up to Martin’s level.

      • Kevin S. - Mar 13, 2013 at 4:41 PM

        This, of course, is well off the original point, which was the dismissal of Russell Martin as a mere Mendoza-line replacement-level player. He’s more than that.

  12. coryfor3 - Mar 13, 2013 at 5:05 PM

    First, this says all you need to know about the season preview for the Yankees.
    And can Austin Romine still be referred to as a catching “prospect”. If he isn’t ready to step up and claim the job with this kind of competition, then what is he going to gain or prove at AAA that will make him ready to beat out these other titans?
    And is Cervelli starting because Cashman couldn’t convince Johnny Bench to take his calls?

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Mar 13, 2013 at 6:01 PM

      This is all about depth. If they gave the job to Romine, they would have to release either Stewart or Cervelli as they are out of options. That is the same reason Stewart was on the Yankees last season instead of Cervelli: Cervelli had a option remaining. If they dump Stewart and give the job to Romine, they are kinda screwed if an injury pops up. And both Cervelli and Romine have missed significant time with injuries in recent seasons.

      Plus, Romine has only played a handful of games above AA. It will not be the worst thing in the world to get a few months of AAA seasoning on him.

  13. stackers1 - Mar 14, 2013 at 8:28 AM

    As stated above by UFY1950, Cervelli has been a good solider for the Yankees. Give him the job now, and he can’t say he was never given a chance. Besides, he really is a spark-plug. He needs to keep from getting his head knocked off again.

  14. lukeslice - Mar 14, 2013 at 11:19 AM

    Cervy is 7 for 9 in throwing out base-stealers this spring, that is the reason he’s the starter. When he came up he was great defensively, got into some bad habits in the majors hence his demotion last year. Yanks are hoping they’ll get what they THOUGHT they had originally; a defense-first-if-he-hits-.250+-bonus catcher.

  15. nyyankeefanforever - Mar 15, 2013 at 1:30 AM

    Aaron, Joe didn’t say anything about Cervelli being the “Opening Day catcher”, the “starting catcher,” or anything like it. All he indicated was he’s going to be on the roster when they head north. Also, it wasn’t “around this time last year he was demoted.” That happened less than 48 hours before the season started, and it happened because the team made a last-minute trade for Stewart — who is the better catcher and hitter, and will most likely be the “starting” catcher again. Just keeping it real.

  16. fanofevilempire - Mar 13, 2013 at 1:34 PM

    You better hope Holidays arm doesn’t fall off, you owe him some heavy stacks

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