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Saturday, May 8, 2010
Going sans Francisco would be mistake

By Andrew Marchand
ESPNNewYork.com

Francisco Cervelli
The Yankees have a better chance to win with Francisco Cervelli at catcher.

BOSTON -- Jorge Posada acted like anyone who may face an adjustment in their job responsibilities. It sure seemed as if it had crossed his mind.

When asked how he would feel about DH'ing more and catching less, Posada was polite but curt.

"Let's see what happens first," Posada said.

This is what should happen: With Nick Johnson out for "several weeks" -- which could easily turn into several months, given Johnson's history -- Joe Girardi should pencil in Posada at designated hitter and Francisco Cervelli as the catcher on the majority of days going forward.

The reason is simple: It gives the Yankees the best chance to win.

Though Posada, 38, is a legendary Yankee and hasn't slowed much, Cervelli is a better defensive catcher right now. Plus, after three more hits and five more RBIs on Saturday, Cervelli is hitting .429 with 12 RBIs. A catcher basically can't play better.

"It would be hard to complain about anything right now from what he is doing," Girardi said after the Yankees' latest demolition of the Red Sox, a 14-3 teeth-kicking. "He's hitting over .400. He is catching well. He is blocking the ball well. He is framing the ball well. And he is throwing people out. It is kind of hard to complain. I guess he could hit .500."

Would that be enough to earn more time for Cervelli? The Yankees' public plan is to rotate the DH. If this means a lot of Posada at DH with Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter sprinkled in, then they have it right.

Francisco Cervelli
Francisco Cervelli gets on base at a crisp rate, evident in his .429 batting average this season.

Cervelli is a better offensive option than Marcus Thames or Ramiro Peña or Randy Winn, who -- with the current makeup of the roster -- are the players who could spend a lot of time in the Yankees lineup if Posada remains predominately behind the plate.

Posada probably won't like this plan, which is why Girardi will be publicly coy with his comments. Before Saturday's game, Girardi brushed off the suggestion of using Posada as a full-time DH.

If that was or is the plan, Girardi would never admit it. While the Yankees will do what is best for the team, they do not want to publicly rile up Posada. Even before Saturday's game, Posada -- like his Core Four buddy, Andy Pettitte -- didn't like that his jersey was stamped "Handle with Care" as he sat out for the fourth game in a row.

Posada admitted to petitioning to play Saturday, but Girardi didn't want to hear it. Girardi plans on DH'ing Posada on Sunday night and catching him Monday, even though Posada has said from the beginning that his calf strain only impacts him running, not catching.

This isn't to suggest Posada shouldn't catch at all. He should probably be behind the plate at least two times during the week, while DH'ing all other days. This would allow Rodriguez and Jeter to rest as the DH once per week.

The one problem of having Cervelli and Posada regularly in the lineup together is that the Yankees would not have a third catcher. This can be solved by calling up Chad Moeller to sit on the bench for emergencies.

If Girardi stays the course and catches Posada five days a week, he will not be putting the Yankees in the best position to win going forward.

What combination makes the Yankees better? Posada and Thames? Or Posada and Cervelli? The Yankees are better both defensively and offensively with Cervelli behind the plate.

When Rodriguez or Jeter are DH'ing, Girardi is basically replacing Peña for Cervelli. Again, how are the Yankees better doing that on a consistent basis with Johnson out?

From the beginning of spring training, Girardi publicly stated that he thinks that Posada would catch 100 to 120 games, but the smaller number always seemed more realistic. Posada will be 39 in two months, which is when catchers are usually not productive.

Posada is still a great, especially with a bat in his hand. This is not a knock on him; it is about doing the best for the team.

Cervelli is just doing everything right, even in what he says.

When told Girardi said he could improve by hitting .500, Cervelli said, "I never look at my average. I don't care about numbers. I'm happy because we win. That's it.

"But if I hit .500, it is good, you know. It would be good for my career."

From here on out, it would be good for the Yankees to have Cervelli and Posada in the lineup on most days.

Andrew Marchand covers baseball for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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