Cervelli with the New York Yankees
|Pittsburgh Pirates – No. 29|
March 6, 1986 |
|September 18, 2008, for the New York Yankees|
(through July 23, 2016)
|Runs batted in||158|
|Career highlights and awards|
Francisco Cervelli (born March 6, 1986) is an Italian Venezuelan professional baseball catcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates of Major League Baseball (MLB). Previously, he played in MLB for the New York Yankees.
The Yankees signed Cervelli as an international free agent in 2003. He made his MLB debut with the Yankees in 2008, and he played on the 2009 World Series championship team. He also played in the 2009 World Baseball Classic for the Italian national team. He was acquired by the Pirates on November 12, 2014.
Early life and professional career
Francisco Cervelli was born on March 6, 1986 in Valencia, Venezuela to an Italian immigrant father and a Venezuelan mother. 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.
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 to 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." He didn't return to action until June 2008.
Major league career
New York Yankees
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 went 0–5 in his brief time in the majors.
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. He made his first major league start on May 7, after José Molina injured his quad. 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. Cervelli asserted himself as a reliable defensive catcher for the New York Yankees, and has received substantial praise from his teammates. 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.
Cervelli, much like Posada, does not use batting gloves, being one of the remaining few who do not wear them.
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, 2009, Cervelli had his first walk-off hit – a single in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays. Cervelli was a member of the Yankees roster in the 2009 MLB postseason, as the Yankees won the 2009 World Series.
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. On March 6, 2010, 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 The Flintstones.
In 2011, Cervelli entered spring training as the backup to Russell Martin. Cervelli broke his foot in early March, and missed the beginning of the 2011 season. On April 29, 2011, the New York Yankees activated Cervelli from the DL, replacing Gustavo Molina who was optioned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. On May 8, Cervelli hit his first home run of the season, his first career grand slam in a series tiebreaker on the road against Texas, bringing in Posada, Nick Swisher, and Brett Gardner.
Cervelli was optioned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to begin the 2012 season, with Chris Stewart winning the job as Martin's backup. Cervelli admitted that he moped following the demotion, until his parents visited him during the season and refocused him on improving his game. The Yankees recalled Cervelli to the majors when rosters expanded on September 1.
With Martin having signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cervelli became the starting catcher for the Yankees in 2013. 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.
Cervelli competed with John Ryan Murphy and Austin Romine to be the backup catcher for the Yankees in spring training in 2014. Cervelli won the job, but suffered a hamstring injury on April 13, and was placed on the 60 day disabled list. He returned to the Yankees on June 17. On September 6, Cervelli suffered from cluster migraines. Though they were determined to not be the result of his prior concussions, he missed time while he recuperated. Cervelli finished the 2014 season with a .301 batting average in 49 games.
On November 12, 2014, the Yankees traded Cervelli to the Pirates in exchange for pitcher Justin Wilson. Cervelli started 124 games for the Pirates in 2015, in which he batted .295 and was worth 3.8 Wins Above Replacement. Prior to the 2016 season, the Pirates signed Cervelli to a one-year contract worth $3.5 million. During the 2016 season, the Pirates signed Cervelli to a three-year contract extension, worth $31 million.
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- King of the Fist Pumps returns from the DL River Avenue Blues
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- Signer, Tom; Bloom, Barry M. (November 12, 2014). "Yankees trade Cervelli to Pirates for left-hander Wilson". MLB.com. Retrieved November 13, 2014.
- Travis Sawchik (September 12, 2015). "Pirates unearth a gem in Cervelli, who has made most of his time". TribLIVE.com. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
- "Pirates sign Francisco Cervelli through 2019". Major League Baseball. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
- Travis Sawchik (January 27, 2016). "Cervelli open to contract extension, but Pirates keeping mum". TribLIVE.com. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
- "Pittsburgh Pirates extend Francisco Cervelli through 2019 season". ESPN.com. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
- "Derek Jeter off to World Baseball Classic, Joe Girardi holds breath". New York: NY Daily News. March 1, 2009. Retrieved August 5, 2013.
- Waldstein, David (August 31, 2011). "Yankees’ Cervelli Won’t Apologize for Playing His Way – NYTimes.com". Bats.blogs.nytimes.com. Retrieved April 16, 2013.
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