TAMPA, Fla. – After a season lost to injury and a performance-enhancing drug suspension, Francisco Cervelli has returned with a chip on his shoulder. The 27-year-old catcher’s performance early in spring training has him looking to be the clear favorite to back up Brian McCann when the season begins.
Always a defense-first catcher, Cervelli has spent more time working with Masahiro Tanaka this spring than any other Yankee backstop. As the Japanese star looks to transition to pitching into the United States for the first time, having a personal catcher with some major league experience – such as Cervelli – could greatly benefit the Yankees’ prized offseason addition.
Cervelli’s hot start to the spring at the plate certainly has not hurt either. After hitting his first Grapefruit League home run of 2014 on Tuesday night, Cervelli’s batting average is up to .556 (5-for-9).
“I was lucky,” Cervelli said of his home run after Tuesday’s game. “We've been working very hard, and we can see the results, but this is just to try to get ready for the season.”
While Cervelli may claim to have been lucky last night, it seems likely his luck will continue with a roster spot in New York to start the season. As a former Opening Day starter, Cervelli boasts more experience than either Austin Romine or star prospect John Ryan Murphy.
Barring an injury to McCann or Cervelli, it appears Murphy will head to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to begin the season. Romine’s fate is unpredictable. The second-year catcher has options remaining and could back up Murphy in Triple-A, but he may be better utilized as trade bait – the same fate that many thought awaited Cervelli before the end of the spring.