Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Francisco Cervelli to catch A.J. Burnett
By Ian Begley
Special to ESPNNewYork.com
NEW YORK -- Francisco Cervelli, not Jorge Posada, will be behind the plate catching New York Yankees starter A.J. Burnett in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series.
Manager Joe Girardi said benching Posada with the Yankees trailing 2-1 in the series was an easy decision.
"Those two have been together, and it was not a difficult process," Girardi said. "We talked about it, and we decided to go with Cervy. ... Cervy has caught a lot of his ballgames and has played well for us."
Posada won't serve as the Yankees' designated hitter Tuesday night. Girardi gave Lance Berkman, who had a home run and an RBI double in Game 2 of the ALDS, the nod at DH.
Posada had started all six of the Yankees' games in the 2010 postseason, but he rarely caught Burnett during the regular season. Burnett and Posada also had chemistry problems in the 2009 regular season. Backup catcher Jose Molina caught Burnett's starts in the 2009 playoffs.
Cervelli has caught 129 1/3 of Burnett's innings this season; Posada has been behind the plate for 38 1/3 innings.
Burnett has a 4.66 ERA and holds hitters to a .274 batting average. Burnett has a 7.28 ERA when Posada catches, with hitters batting .340 against.
Girardi said his decision to start Cervelli would not have been different if Posada had been hitting well in the playoffs.
"Being a catcher, for years, and understanding sometimes what it was like to be the backup catcher where you caught the same guy all the time, I believe in that catcher-pitcher relationship that people are able to form," Girardi said. "It really had nothing to do with offense."
Posada is 2-for-10 in the ALCS. He had one of two Yankees hits off of Cliff Lee in Game 3. He went 3-for-11 with two runs scored and two RBIs in the ALDS versus the Minnesota Twins. He hit .248 in the regular season with 18 home runs and 57 RBIs.
"We have a 39-year-old catcher that doesn't play seven, eight, nine, 10 days in a row. ... Jorge used to do that and Jorge was extremely durable," Girardi said. "Jorge has caught a lot of games and done it very well.
"Now, if Jorge was a guy that caught 10, 12, 14 days in a row, it would have been different. But that's not what we have here anymore."
Posada holds the record for career playoff games as a catcher with 117, which is the third-highest total overall.
He needs two hits to tie Chipper Jones (96) on the all-time postseason hits list and has 41 RBIs, which ranks eighth on the all-time list.
Cervelli caught two innings in the 2009 playoffs. Tuesday night's Game 4 will be Cervelli's first playoff start.
"I'm ready and I wanna have fun and do everything to help my team," Cervelli said prior to Game 3 on Monday, before it was officially announced that he'd be catching Burnett in Game 4.
Cervelli's last start came on Oct. 2, which is the last day Burnett pitched. So Cervelli hasn't faced live pitching in more than two weeks, other than getting in the box against Burnett during a simulated game last Wednesday. Cervelli hit .271 in the regular season with 38 RBIs and no home runs. But he says the layoff won't be a problem.
"I just work. I work a lot every day to be ready," Cervelli said Monday. "That's the first thing. And then just do the best you can. That's all you can do."
The Rangers are aggressive on the basepaths and may test Cervelli early in Game 4. They executed a double steal of second and home on Posada in Game 2.
"I just have to concentrate," Cervelli said when asked about his approach behind the plate against Texas. "I faced these guys a lot of times this year and they didn't run too much. So they're aggressive and they have a lot of speed. I just have to be ready."
Posada expressed frustration last season when he was benched for Burnett's starts. Girardi said he respected the fact that Posada wanted to catch every day, but the manager said he was concerned foremost about Posada's health.
"Jorge wants to play every day; that's the bottom line," said Girardi, who once platooned with Posada late in his playing career with the Yankees. "And when you've been an everyday player, your heart tells you one thing and your mind tells you another. ... It's not always the easiest thing to accept. But Jorge is a team player and Jorge will be ready for us."
Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.