Francisco Cervelli hit two home runs this afternoon. Said he couldn’t remember ever doing that before. He’s hitting .500 for the spring, he’s thrown out three base runners, and none of his teammates has a better slugging percentage.
But let’s not forget that Cervelli once broke his wrist in a spring training game. Or that he was once stunned by a late spring trade that forced him back to the minors. Or that just when he was playing like an everyday guy last season he wound up with a broken hand on a fluke foul tip. Or that he watched the Yankees sign Brian McCann to a five-year deal this offseason.
“Oh no, don’t tell me they’re going to cut me today,” Cervelli said as he stood as his locker postgame. “… I’m going to hide today. I’m going to go home right now, because if they call me in the office, that’s scary.”
Getting wrapped up in the Biogenesis clinic might have been stupid, but Cervelli’s not a dumb guy. He can look down his row of lockers and see McCann, John Ryan Murphy, Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez. He can do the math and realize he’s potentially expendable. One source has already told me that some scouts have been at Yankees game specifically watching Cervelli, and simple logic suggests Cervelli has to be available at the right price. McCann is signed for five years, Romine has played well this spring, Murphy’s made huge strides behind the plate, and Sanchez is the top prospect in the system.
“I’ve been here forever,” Cervelli said. “This is, I feel like, my house. But if somebody wants me to go over there, I’ve got to make the adjustment. I told you guys many times that my dream is to be a starting catcher. Right now, my role is a backup. That’s what I’m playing for. But I’m never going to stop because an opportunity is going to come again.”
Cervelli was hitting .269/.377/.500, and he’d thrown out two of four base stealers, when he broke his hand last season. A setback and suspension caused him to miss the rest of the season, but he still came to camp as a favorite to win a roster spot. The Yankees believe he’s significantly better than in 2012 when they chose to trade for Chris Stewart rather than give Cervelli a backup job.
“Oh, I definitely think so,” Joe Girardi said. “I think he’s a much better player. Defensively. Offensively. He’s matured. He’s played a lot more baseball.”
Where will he play the rest of his baseball? A little too early to tell. Cervelli’s been great this spring, but that certainly doesn’t mean he’ll be on that plane to Houston when camp breaks.
“Honestly, (last year) was a year that you want to forget right now,” he said. “But you take the positive side and you see, if I was playing like that I can do it again, and I’ve got to keep working because I’m not going to stop. … This is my house right now, today. I don’t know what happens tomorrow.”
· Hiroki Kuroda finally got some attention! All it took was pitching one of the worst games of the spring. Having previously allowed just two hits this spring, Kuroda today allowed 10 hits and six runs through 3.2 innings. He allowed more runs in one afternoon than any other Yankees starter has allowed all spring. “Mechanically I was inconsistent and I was rushing a little bit, and the hitters took advantage,” he said. “When the stuff is good, I tend to get a lot of ground outs, but today it didn’t work. The location wasn’t there.”
· Not exactly typical of Kuroda, but he was missing particularly with his offspeed stuff. And he was missing up in the zone. He said his slider in particular was pretty bad. Both he and Girardi dismissed the idea that today’s start could be seen as a continuation of last year’s down-the-stretch struggles. “The arm speed is there and everything is there,” Girardi said. “Here’s a guy that has been around a long time. I don’t make too much of spring training games. They say not to make too much of September for young kids that get called up and don’t make too much of spring training games.”
· Brendan Ryan did some throwing, some running, and he swung a broomstick again today. He hopes to swing an actual bat tomorrow, either dry swings or off a tee. Girardi said he doesn’t expect Ryan to play until next week. Ryan still says his lower back is a non-issue and the Yankees are simply being extremely cautious.
· Another minor injury: Dean Anna had a stiff neck today. It’s believed to be because of yesterday’s collision with McCann. Girardi said he still expects Anna to make the trip and play this weekend in Panama.
· Girardi said he was pretty sure Brian Roberts was out at first base in the seventh inning, but he challenged call just in case. He did not ask Roberts whether he was safe. “I would have told him, no,” Roberts said. “Appreciate the effort, though.”
· Pretty strong spring debut by Jose Campos. He was a little inconsistent with his curveball — threw one for a called strike, another ended with a leadoff double — but late in the inning, he dialed his fastball up to 93 mph for each of his final four pitches. One was a strikeout pitch, the other three came in his final at-bat, which ended with a fly ball to center.
· Manny Banuelos is going to make his next spring appearance on Friday.
· Girardi is staying in Tampa for tomorrow’s home game. Tony Pena will manage the split-squad game in Clearwater. Michael Pineda is pitching at home, Ivan Nova is pitching on the road.
· Another hit and a walk for Yangervis Solarte, but Girardi pointed out that all of the Yankees backup infield options seem to be playing well. Is the dust beginning to settle in that competition? “I would say the storm is getting dustier,” Girardi said. “The wind is blowing harder. Competition is great. I love it.”
· Cervelli is the first Yankees player to reach three home runs this spring. He said he literally couldn’t remember ever hitting two homers in a professional game. “I think I’m going to sleep well tonight,” he said. “I just see two good pitches and swing the bat. That’s it.”
· Box score notes: The Yankees finished with a 7-run tie because of Zoilo Almonte’s ninth-inning home run. He had two hits and he’s batting .389 this spring. … Jose Gil, Josee Pirela and Adonis Garcia also had hits today. All three are hitting better than .400. … Mason Williams threw out a runner at the plate. Cervelli made a nice diving tag on the play. … Hitless inning for Shawn Kelley. Danny Burawa did the same. Yoshinori Tateyama and Fred Lewis each pitched a one-hit inning.
· Final word goes to Girardi, talking about Kuroda’s rough finish last season: “It was just a guy that went through a tremendous four months and then had a couple tougher months. If you have a tough month in May and a tough month in July, people probably don’t say much. Because of the way he finished, people are going to question what we’re going to have this year. I do feel good about him; I do think maybe he ran out of a little gas, but I can’t tell you that for sure.”
Associated Press photos