It’s been three months since Russell Martin signed with the Pirates, and since then, the Yankees most significant development at catcher just might be Francisco Cervelli’s rediscovery of how to throw the ball. Three weeks into spring training, Cervelli’s arm is the one thing that stands out in the much-discussed competition for the starting catcher job.
“Right now, this is the best I have seen him throw,” bench coach Tony Pena said.
The video above is of Pena putting Cervelli through a standard throwing drill. Pena said some instructors like to have catchers focus on footwork without actually making throws — just receive a pitch, pop out of the crouch and get into position to throw to second — but Pena said he’s found that mechanics are never quite right without the throw itself. Catchers think they’re popping into a good throwing position, but it’s not exact unless there’s an actual throw involved.
For Cervelli, these sort of drills started this offseason with catching coordinator Julio Mosquera, who helped Cervelli regain some of the polish that he showed when he first got to the big leagues.
“I came in (this spring), I saw what he was doing and I said, ‘You’re good!’” Pena said. “Then we just added little things and just keep on doing it every single day, day in and day out. … Whenever a catcher loses that feel for throwing, when a catcher is lost, they stay there for a while. They stay there for a long time. I was just so happy to see him capable to throw the way he used to throw the ball.”
Cervelli is 5-for-6 throwing out base runners this spring. He was 9-for-14 during winter ball. Considering Joe Girardi’s preference for defensive catchers, Cervelli’s numbers are impossible to ignore, and based on little more than gut feeling, they seem to have made Cervelli the early favorite for the job.
“He isn’t trying to be so quick,” Pena said. “Obviously, catchers, we have a tendency to be quick. (Cervelli) has a great arm. He doesn’t have to be that quick. Now he’s more calm. He’s in a better position to throw the ball.”