One throw in the first game of spring training shouldn’t mean much, but we might have seen a small exception this afternoon. In the second inning of an 8-3 Yankees win against the Braves, Francisco Cervelli threw out Todd Cunningham attempting to steal second base. It ended the inning just a couple of pitches after Cervelli had tried to pick off Cunningham with a snap throw to first.
“I’ve been working a lot on my throwing, so I’m not surprised,” Cervelli said. “I threw really good in winter ball. I got a lot of people out, and I feel like I’m back to what I used to be in ’09.”
It’s easy to forget that Cervelli actually had a pretty good defensive reputation back in 2009. He threw out 40 percent of base stealers that year, including 43 percent of the guys who tried to steal against him in the big leagues. But that reputation faded quickly.
In 2010, Cervelli threw out just 14 percent of base stealers. In 2011, it was 14 percent again.
“Rushing,” Cervelli said. “I tried to throw the ball too hard and I tried to get the ball before it was in my glove. Now I work relaxed behind the plate. Same energy, but I just try to be more relaxed and let my body go.”
Cervelli said it took him a couple of months — and a visit from his parents — to get over the initial disappointment of last year’s demotion, but once he moved on, the started thinking about getting better. And getting better started with his throwing. He threw out 30 percent of base stealers in Triple-A last year, then he went to winter ball in Venezuela and threw out 64 percent (nine of 14 runners).
“The past few years in the big leagues, I had bad habits,” Cervelli said. “Maybe frustration, or if you don’t play every day, you want to do things perfect. I was a little young, too. You’re a little desperate sometimes. When you get more mature and have more experience, play every day like last year, you start to get that feeling.”
So what’s the significance of one throw in the first game of spring training? Might be nothing, but if it’s a sign that Cervelli really has improved his technique, it just might mean a lot.
“That’s a beautiful throw,” Joe Girardi said. “You can’t make it any better than that, so that’s a good sign.”
Associated Press photo