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Cervelli understandably wary of good spring

Is Francisco Cervelli hitting his way out of New York this spring? Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports

TAMPA, Fla. -- Francisco Cervelli hit two long home runs today, threw a runner out trying to steal third and made a terrific play tagging a runner out trying to score.

So what is any level-headed young man supposed to do after a day like that?

"I'm gonna hide today," Cervelli said. "I'm gonna go home right now, because when they call me to the office, that's scary, you know?"

No one knows that better than Cervelli. Two springs ago, he seemed to have locked up the backup catcher's job behind Russell Martin, only to have the rug yanked out from under him on the last day of spring training when the Yankees traded for Chris Stewart and relegated him to a year of Triple-A catching for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees.

Last year might have been even worse, because he actually won the starting job in camp after Martin left as a free agent, but never made it through April when he broke his hand on a foul tip.

The message was clear: Good spring = bad news.

Francisco Cervelli

Francisco Cervelli

#29 C
New York Yankees

2013 STATS

  • GM17
  • HR3

  • RBI8

  • R12

  • OBP.377

  • AVG.269

So you can't really blame the guy for being a little gun shy, especially after playing the way he did in Wednesday's game against the Detroit Tigers, which ended in a 7-7, 10-inning tie thanks to Zoilo Almonte's game tying two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth.

"Oh, no, no, no, don't tell me they are going to cut me today," Cervelli joked in the clubhouse afterward.

But the scars are real, as is the possibility that yet another good spring could lead to another unexpected ending for Cervelli -- perhaps a trade for infield or bullpen help, two areas in which the Yankees still seem to have a need. If nothing else, Cervelli -- who through the first 14 games of spring training leads the Yankees in home runs (3), batting average (.500 on 8-for-16) on-base percentage (.556) and slugging percentage (a ridiculous 1.125) -- has proven his value, if not to his own team than to any number of others who can use a catcher.

"That's something I can't control," Cervelli said. "This is my house right now, today, and I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. I've been here forever. But if somebody wants me to go over there, I got to make the adjustment, you know?"

Making adjustments has been a particular strong suit for Cervelli, who was sent down to improve his defense two springs ago, and did, to the satisfaction of his manager, a pretty fair defensive catcher himself. And so far this spring, he has shown a bit more pop in his bat as well.

"I think he’s a much better player defensively and offensively," Joe Girardi said. "He’s matured. He’s played a lot more baseball. I think he has the ability to [play every day], yeah, I do.”

With Brian McCann signed for the next five years and Gary Sanchez, who was optioned to Double-A Trenton after the game, being groomed for the future, it seems highly unlikely Cervelli will ever get that chance here.

"I told you guys many times my dream is to be a starting catcher," Cervelli said. "But I know my role here. Right now, my role is a backup. That's what I’m playing for. I come here, I hit, I catch, I do anything they say. But I’m never going to stop because opportunity is going to come again."

Cervelli said he could not remember ever hitting two home runs in the same game even at the minor-league level, and maybe further back than that.

"That’s really good because I think that’s the first time in my life," he said. "I think I’m going to sleep well tonight."

But he didn't guarantee it, because no one knows better than Francisco Cervelli that a good day in spring training, or even a full spring of good days, guarantees nothing around here.

QUESTION: Would you keep Cervelli as McCann's backup or trade him for an infielder or relief pitcher?