John Ryan Murphy was optioned to Triple-A yesterday. Austin Romine was optioned this morning. Along the back wall of the Yankees clubhouse, where the top catchers are assigned, there are now only two lockers that haven’t been emptied: Brian McCann and Francisco Cervelli. Barring a trade or injury, Cervelli will be the backup on Opening Day.
“Well, I haven’t told him,” Joe Girardi said. “But he’s about the only one left in camp.”
Of course, you might remember two years ago when it seemed Cervelli had the backup job locked up, only to see the Yankees trade for Chris Stewart in the final days of spring training.
“I’ll tell you in Houston,” Cervelli said. “If I’ve got my luggage in Houston, I’ll be happy.”
Cervelli has the highest batting average, highest slugging percentage, most home runs and most runs scored in camp. He’s also thrown out five of 10 runners trying to steal second base (six of 11 if you count the guy he threw out in minor league camp on Monday). Because he’s out of options and played well last season, Cervelli might have been viewed as a favorite for the backup role heading into camp, but there’s little doubt he’s earned it this spring. The Yankees seem to have little incentive to go looking for a replacement this year.
“I think playing that whole year (in Triple-A in 2012), he really improved,” Girardi said. “I thought he became a better catcher. I thought he improved offensively. I think we saw that improvement in his offense last April, the way he swung the bat. And obviously he’s swung the bat great in spring training. But I think he just matured, grew up, understood the job better and he’s done a great job.”
Girardi said the doesn’t anticipate assigning Cervelli to be one starter’s personal catcher. His playing time, it seems, will be based entirely on when McCann needs a day off.
“We expect Brian to catch a lot, a lot, a lot,” Girardi said. “But if we feel he needs a day off, and it’s maybe it’s two out of nine days or two out of eight days. We want Brian in as much as we can, but we know that Cervy can do a really good job. … He’s been around here. He’s pretty familiar with most of the guys. I’ll just put him in when I feel the day is right.”
· The plan is for Jacoby Ellsbury to play center field in a minor league game this afternoon. That will leave three more major-league spring training games that Ellsbury could play before breaking camp. “Each day we just kind of talk about it, where he’s at, because we want to see where he’s at before we make a decision for the next day,” Girardi said.
· Alfonso Soriano has been dealing with some tightness in his shoulder, but it’s not keeping him out of the lineup. “It’s something that he’s had,” Girardi said. “Players have to work through things. He won’t play tomorrow. He’ll get tomorrow off and then we’ll see how he is (Friday).”
· This is the first time this spring that Derek Jeter has played shortstop in a day game after playing shortstop in a night game the day before. He played a day game after a night game in Panama, but one of those was a DH day. “I try to do it to everybody in spring training,” Girardi said.
· Girardi is now discussing Brendan Ryan as if he’s already on the disabled list. There are two infield bench openings, and Girardi said he hasn’t decided who will fill either of them. Has the field narrowed down at all? “Maybe a little bit,” Girardi said. “But we’re going to have to make a decision pretty quick here because they’re going to have to pack.” Eduardo Nunez, Dean Anna, Yangervis Solarte and Scott Sizemore seem to be the strongest candidates. Zelous Wheeler has also played well, but he has yet to spend a full year in Triple-A, so he seems like the long shot of the options in camp.
· Both David Phelps and Adam Warren will make tomorrow’s road trip to Bradenton to get another turn out of the bullpen. Girardi said he doesn’t feel one is better suited than the other for a one-inning, short-relief role. “I think they both can do it,” Girardi said.
· Today’s second string: C Jose Gil, 1B Russ Canzler, 2B Scott Sizemore, SS Eduardo Nunez, 3B Yangervis Solarte, LF Zelous Wheeler, CF Antoan Richardson, RF Adonis Garcia
· Today’s scheduled relievers: Yoshinori Tateyama, Dellin Betances, Preston Claiborne, Jim Miller, Danny Burawa, Matt Daley, Fred Lewis (with Aaron Dott, Pat Venditte and Branden Pinder up from minor league camp just in case the Yankees need them)
· Tomorrow’s travel squad for Bradenton:
Pitchers: Danny Burawa, Cesar Cabral, Shane Greene, David Herndon, Fred Lewis, Jim Miller, Vidal Nuno, David Phelps, CC Sabathia, Yoshinori Tateyama, Adam Warren
Catchers: Jose Gil, Brian McCann
Infielders: Dean Anna, Russ Canzler, Eduardo Nunez, Scott Sizemore, Yangervis Solarte, Mark Teixeira, Zelous Wheeler
Outfielders: Zoilo Almonte, Adonis Garcia, Antoan Richardson, Ichiro Suzuki
Associated Press photos