Francisco Cervelli

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Francisco Cervelli
Cervelli with the New York Yankees
Born: (1986-03-06) March 6, 1986 (age 37)
Valencia, Venezuela
Batted: Right
Threw: Right
MLB debut
September 18, 2008, for the New York Yankees
Last MLB appearance
August 22, 2020, for the Miami Marlins
MLB statistics
Batting average.268
Home runs41
Runs batted in275

Francisco Cervelli (born March 6, 1986) is a Venezuelan former professional baseball catcher and former catching coach for the San Diego Padres. He played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates, Atlanta Braves, and Miami Marlins from 2008 through 2020.

The Yankees signed Cervelli as an international free agent in 2003. He made his MLB debut with the Yankees in 2008, and played on the 2009 World Series championship team that beat the Philadelphia Phillies. He also played in the 2009 and 2017 World Baseball Classics for the Italian national team. He was acquired by the Pirates in November 2014. The Pirates traded Cervelli to Atlanta in 2019, and he played for Miami in 2020 before announcing his retirement.

Early life[edit]

Francisco Cervelli was born in Valencia, Venezuela, to an Italian immigrant father, Emanuele Cervelli, and a Venezuelan mother, Damelis.[1] He also has a sister.

In Venezuela, Cervelli played shortstop, second base, and sometimes pitched. The Yankees signed him as an international free agent with the understanding that he would try catching.[2]

Minor leagues[edit]

Cervelli played in the Dominican Summer League in 2003. Initially a switch hitter, the Yankees had Cervelli focus on right-handed hitting.[2][3]

After struggling to adjust to professional baseball in 2004 and 2005, Cervelli batted .309 for the Staten Island Yankees of the Class A-Short Season New York–Penn League in 2006. In 2007, he played for the Tampa Yankees of the Class A-Advanced Florida State League, where he batted .279 with an on-base percentage of .387 and two home runs. Baseball America rated him the Yankees' 23rd-best prospect prior for the 2008 season.

On March 8, 2008, Cervelli fractured his wrist on a controversial play during a spring training game against the Tampa Bay Rays, when Rays infielder Elliot Johnson collided with him at home plate in the ninth inning. Joe Girardi, the Yankees manager said, "I think it was uncalled for, it's spring training and you are going to get people hurt and we got Cervelli hurt."[4] He did not return to action until June.[3]

Cervelli began the 2009 season with the Trenton Thunder of the Class AA Eastern League.[5]

Major league career[edit]

New York Yankees[edit]

Following the completion of the 2008 minor league season, Cervelli was called up to the Yankees. He made his major league debut on September 18, 2008, as a defensive replacement. He batted 0-for-5 in his brief time in the majors.

Cervelli with the Yankees

After starting the 2009 season in the minors, Cervelli was called up by the Yankees on May 5, 2009, when Jorge Posada was placed on the 15-day disabled list, though he was batting only .190, with a .266 on-base percentage and .310 slugging percentage at Trenton at the time of the call-up, and had not played in Class AAA.[6] He made his first appearance of the season on May 7, after José Molina injured his quad.[7] He recorded his first major league hit, a single, on May 8, against the Baltimore Orioles, while also catching starting pitcher CC Sabathia during a complete game shutout.[8] Cervelli asserted himself as a reliable defensive catcher for the New York Yankees, and received praise from his teammates.[9] Though Cervelli was sent to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees of the Class AAA International League on July 8, 2009. when Molina was activated off of the disabled list, Yankees' manager Joe Girardi made clear that he was impressed with Cervelli's performance.[10]

On June 24, 2009, Cervelli hit his first major league home run against Kris Medlen of the Atlanta Braves, breaking up a no-hitter. On September 16, Cervelli had his first walk-off hit – a single in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays.[11] Cervelli was a member of the Yankees roster in the 2009 MLB postseason,[12] as the Yankees won the 2009 World Series, but he was not on the World Series roster.[13]

Cervelli started the 2010 season on the Yankees' 25-man roster to serve as the backup catcher to Posada, and served as the Yankees' starting catcher while Posada recovered from a foot injury.[14] On March 6, Cervelli was hit in the head by a pitch. He was removed from the game with a concussion. Shortly after, citing another concussion Cervelli suffered while playing winter ball, the Yankees suggested he begin wearing the Rawlings S-100 protective helmet, a bulkier model made to withstand 100 mph fastballs. This briefly earned him the nickname "Gazoo", a reference to a character in The Flintstones.[15]

Cervelli (right) with Rafael Soriano

In 2011, Cervelli entered spring training as the backup to Russell Martin.[16] Cervelli broke his foot in early March, and missed the beginning of the 2011 season.[17] On April 29, 2011, the New York Yankees activated Cervelli from the disabled list,[18] and on May 8, he hit his first home run of the season, also the first grand slam of his career, in a series tiebreaker on the road against Texas.[19]

Cervelli was optioned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to begin the 2012 season, with Chris Stewart winning the job as Martin's backup.[20] Cervelli admitted that he moped following the demotion, until his parents visited him during the season and refocused him on improving his game.[21] The Yankees recalled Cervelli to the majors when rosters expanded on September 1.[22]

When Martin signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cervelli became the starting catcher for the Yankees in 2013.[21] In a game against the Blue Jays on April 26, Cervelli suffered a fractured right hand after getting hit by a foul tip by outfielder Rajai Davis; he then underwent surgery the next day and was placed on the 60-day disabled list.[23] On August 5, 2013, Cervelli was suspended for 50 games after being linked with the Biogenesis scandal.[24]

Cervelli competed with John Ryan Murphy and Austin Romine to be the backup catcher for the Yankees in spring training in 2014.[25] Cervelli won the job,[26] but suffered a hamstring injury on April 13, and was placed on the 60-day disabled list.[27] He returned to the Yankees on June 17.[28] On September 6, Cervelli suffered from cluster migraines.[29] Though they were determined to not be the result of his prior concussions, he missed time while he recuperated.[30] Cervelli finished the 2014 season with a .301 batting average in 49 games.[31]

Pittsburgh Pirates[edit]

Cervelli with the Pirates in 2017

On November 12, 2014, the Yankees traded Cervelli to the Pirates in exchange for pitcher Justin Wilson.[31][32] Cervelli started 124 games for the Pirates in 2015, in which he batted .295[33] and was worth 3.8 Wins Above Replacement. Runners stole a major-league-leading 101 bases against him.[34]

Prior to the 2016 season, the Pirates signed Cervelli to a one-year contract worth $3.5 million.[35] During the 2016 season, the Pirates signed Cervelli to a three-year contract extension, worth $31 million.[33][36] In 2016, his batting dropped to .264/.377/.322 (his lowest slugging percentage of his career), as he hit only one home run in 393 plate appearances, and caught 19% of attempted basestealers.[37]

In 2017, Cervelli batted .249 (the lowest batting average of his career)/.342/.370, as he caught 20% of attempted basestealers.[37] On June 22, 2018, he was placed on the seven day disabled list with a concussion. He was activated a couple of weeks later but fell back to the seven day disabled list with a recurrence of the concussion symptom.[38] In 2018 he batted .259/.378/.431 with a career-high 12 home runs.[37]

Cervelli suffered his sixth concussion on May 25, 2019. While rehabilitating, he decided to give up catching.[39] He later backtracked, saying he wanted to continue catching.[40] With the Pirates in 2019, he batted .193/.279/.248 in 34 games.[37]

Atlanta Braves[edit]

Cervelli with the Atlanta Braves in 2019

On August 22, 2019, the Pirates released Cervelli in order to give him the opportunity to receive playing time with another team.[41] He signed with the Atlanta Braves on August 24. In his debut with the Braves, Cervelli went 4-for-5 with three doubles and three RBIs during the Braves 9-5 win over the Mets on August 24.[42] He batted .281 with two home runs and seven RBIs in 14 games for the Braves before the end of the season.[43]

The Braves included Cervelli on their roster for the 2019 National League Division Series.[44] The Braves lost to the Cardinals.[45]

Miami Marlins[edit]

On January 9, 2020, Cervelli signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Miami Marlins,[46] to serve as a backup catcher to Jorge Alfaro.[47] Alfaro began the season on the injured list, and Cervelli started for the Marlins on Opening Day.[48] On August 22, 2020, Cervelli was placed on the injured list and later ruled out for the season after his seventh MLB concussion.[49] He played in 16 games total in 2020, and announced his retirement after the regular season.[50]

World Baseball Classic; Italy national team[edit]

Cervelli played for the Italy national baseball team in the 2009 World Baseball Classic[51] and the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

Coaching career[edit]

On December 1, 2021, Cervelli was hired by the San Diego Padres to serve as the team's catching instructor for the 2022 season.[52]

Personal life[edit]

Cervelli is an avid soccer fan, and a supporter of Serie A football club Juventus.[53]

During the crisis in Venezuela, Cervelli's parents moved to Colombia, and his grandparents returned to Italy. Cervelli took to social media in 2017 to voice his opposition to Nicolás Maduro. He teamed with Hernán Pérez in an ongoing effort to call American attention to the issue, using techniques such as writing "SOS Venezuela" on his eye black.[54] He led teammates in wearing "Freedom for Venezuela" t-shirts in 2019.[55]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gomez, Eric (March 14, 2017). "Italian-style baseball catches some Latin American flair". ESPN. Retrieved March 14, 2017.
  2. ^ a b Abraham, Peter (May 29, 2009). "The Cervelli Backstory". The LoHud Yankees Blog. Archived from the original on June 1, 2009. Retrieved April 8, 2013.
  3. ^ a b Gill, Kat (July 9, 2009). "Cisco Kid Was a Friend of Mine: Yankees Option Francisco Cervelli". Bleacher Report. Retrieved March 15, 2017.
  4. ^ King III, George A. (March 9, 2008). "Harmful Rays". New York Post. Retrieved March 9, 2008.
  5. ^ Bontemps, Tim (April 3, 2008). "A Look Through the Yankees System: Double-A Trenton". New York Post. Retrieved March 15, 2017.
  6. ^ Martin, Dan (May 6, 2009). "POSADA ON DISABLED LIST WITH INJURED HAMSTRING". New York Post. Retrieved July 28, 2021.
  7. ^ "Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees Box Score, May 7, 2009". Sports Reference. May 7, 2009. Retrieved July 28, 2021.
  8. ^ "Rodriguez homers on first pitch as Yankees cruise". ESPN. May 8, 2009. Retrieved July 28, 2021.
  9. ^ Arnold, Perry (May 19, 2009). "Will the Yankees Have the Courage to Give Francisco Cervelli a Long-Term Shot?". Bleacher Report. Retrieved July 28, 2021.
  10. ^ Carig, Marc (July 8, 2009). "With big league time likely coming to end, Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli leaves another good impression". Newark Star-Ledger. Retrieved January 9, 2020.
  11. ^ "Matsui's two-run HR sets up Cervelli's walk-off single in 9th as Yanks down Jays". ESPN. September 17, 2009. Retrieved July 28, 2021.
  12. ^ "2009 New York Yankees Roster". Sports Reference.
  13. ^ Augustine, Bernie (October 28, 2009). "Yankees finalize World Series roster". Staten Island Advance. Retrieved October 28, 2009.
  14. ^ Kramer, Ari (June 1, 2010). "Francisco Cervelli Running Out of Gas, Jorge Posada's Return To Help". Bleacher Report. Retrieved July 28, 2021.
  15. ^ Hoch, Bryan (March 11, 2010). "Cervelli gets new helmet, new nickname: Posada calling Rawlings S100-wearing teammate 'Gazoo'". Archived from the original on October 28, 2017. Retrieved April 16, 2013.
  16. ^ Shpigel, Ben (March 4, 2011). "Cervelli Fractures Foot, Altering Yankees' Plan for Younger Catchers". The New York Times. Retrieved May 26, 2011.
  17. ^ Hoch, Bryan (April 30, 2011). "Cervelli activated from 15-day disabled list". New York Yankees. Archived from the original on November 6, 2012. Retrieved May 26, 2011.
  18. ^ Kabak, Benjamin (April 29, 2011). "King of the Fist Pumps returns from the DL". River Avenue Blues. Retrieved July 29, 2021.
  19. ^ Hoch, Bryan (May 8, 2011). "Jeter, Cervelli lead Yanks' five-homer barrage: Captain hits two blasts; catcher belts slam in finale win over Texas". Archived from the original on July 29, 2017. Retrieved April 16, 2013.
  20. ^ Jennings, Chad (April 4, 2012). "Cervelli: "I don't understand their reason" – The LoHud Yankees Blog". The LoHud Yankees Blog. Archived from the original on April 6, 2012. Retrieved April 8, 2013.
  21. ^ a b Kerasotis, Peter (March 23, 2013). "Demoted Last Season, Cervelli Emerges as Yankees' Starting Catcher". The New York Times. Retrieved April 16, 2013.
  22. ^ "Transactions | New York Yankees". New York Yankees. Retrieved April 8, 2013.
  23. ^ Arangure Jr., Jorge (April 27, 2013). "Yankees' Cervelli Breaks Hand and Nova Leaves With Elbow Pain". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 29, 2021.
  24. ^ Boland, Erik (October 9, 2013). "Francisco Cervelli comes clean over his role in Biogenesis suspension". Newsday. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  25. ^ McCarron, Anthony (December 2, 2013). "Yankees' Francisco Cervelli, Austin Romine ahead of J.R. Murphy in competition to be Brian McCann's backup | New York Daily News". New York Daily News. Archived from the original on December 3, 2013. Retrieved December 5, 2013.
  26. ^ Castillo, Jorge (March 26, 2014). "Yankees select Francisco Cervelli as backup catcher". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved July 27, 2014.
  27. ^ Martin, Dan (April 15, 2014). "Yankees call up Scott Sizemore, John Ryan Murphy | New York Post". New York Post. Retrieved July 27, 2014.
  28. ^ "Yankees switch catchers, add Cervelli, drop Murphy". Fox Sports. June 17, 2014. Archived from the original on June 9, 2016. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  29. ^ Kuty, Brendan (September 6, 2014). "Yankees: Francisco Cervelli's migraines not concussion-related". Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  30. ^ Kuty, Brendan (September 14, 2014). "Yankees' Francisco Cervelli working to return from migraine scare". Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  31. ^ a b Signer, Tom; Bloom, Barry M. (November 12, 2014). "Yankees trade Cervelli to Pirates for left-hander Wilson". Pittsburgh Pirates. Archived from the original on November 13, 2014. Retrieved November 13, 2014.
  32. ^ Sawchik, Travis (September 12, 2015). "Pirates unearth a gem in Cervelli, who has made most of his time". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  33. ^ a b Berry, Adam (May 17, 2016). "Pirates sign Francisco Cervelli through 2019". Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  34. ^ "Major League Leaderboards » 2015 » All Positions » Fielding Statistics | FanGraphs Baseball". Fangraphs. Retrieved July 7, 2019.
  35. ^ Sawchik, Travis (January 27, 2016). "Cervelli open to contract extension, but Pirates keeping mum". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  36. ^ "Pittsburgh Pirates extend Francisco Cervelli through 2019 season". ESPN. May 17, 2016. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  37. ^ a b c d "Francisco Cervelli Stats". Sports Reference. Retrieved July 7, 2019.
  38. ^ Varela, Ashley (July 14, 2018). "Pirates place Francisco Cervelli on seven-day disabled list – HardballTalk". NBC Sports. Retrieved July 7, 2019.
  39. ^ "Cervelli - I'm done catching after 6th concussion". ESPN. July 7, 2019. Retrieved July 7, 2019.
  40. ^ Bogage, Jacob (July 13, 2019). "Pirates' Francisco Cervelli says he never wanted to stop catching because of concussions". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 23, 2019.
  41. ^ DiPaola, Jerry (August 22, 2019). "Pirates cut ties with catcher Francisco Cervelli". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved August 23, 2019.
  42. ^ Bowman, Mark (August 25, 2019). "Cervelli pays quick dividends in Braves debut". Retrieved January 9, 2020.
  43. ^ "Cervelli reaches deal with Marlins, source says". ESPN. December 23, 2019. Retrieved January 9, 2020.
  44. ^ "Braves, Cardinals set rosters for NLDS". October 3, 2019.
  45. ^ "2019 NL Division Series - St. Louis Cardinals over Atlanta Braves (3-2)".
  46. ^ "Cervelli finalizes $2 million, 1-year contract with Marlins". Yahoo Sports. Associated Press. January 9, 2020. Retrieved January 9, 2020.
  47. ^ Frisaro, Joe (February 15, 2020). "Marlins see Alfaro, Cervelli as potent 1-2 punch". Retrieved July 29, 2021.
  48. ^ Frisaro, Joe (July 24, 2020). "Marlins put Alfaro on IL; Cervelli behind dish". Retrieved July 29, 2021.
  49. ^ "Marlins' Cervelli hits IL with another concussion". ESPN. August 23, 2020. Retrieved August 23, 2020.
  50. ^ Mackey, Jason (October 3, 2020). "That's amore … and it, as Francisco Cervelli retires". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved October 3, 2020.
  51. ^ McCarron, Anthony (March 1, 2009). "Derek Jeter off to World Baseball Classic, Joe Girardi holds breath". New York Daily News. New York. Retrieved August 5, 2013.
  52. ^ "Former Yankees, Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli joins Padres staff: Sources".
  53. ^ Waldstein, David (August 31, 2011). "Yankees' Cervelli Won't Apologize for Playing His Way –". The New York Times. Retrieved April 16, 2013.
  54. ^ Red, Christian (June 3, 2017). "ENOUGH ALREADY: Ex-Yankee Francisco Cervelli using social media to shine a light on turmoil in Venezuela". New York Daily News. Retrieved July 29, 2021.
  55. ^ "Pirates wearing 'Freedom for Venezuela' shirts". ESPN. February 23, 2019. Retrieved February 24, 2019.

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