Tuesday, June 10, 2014

What To Do With Cervelli When He's Ready To Be Activated?

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

While daily updates on Shawn Kelley's back, Carlos Beltran's elbow, Mark Teixeira's wrist, and what impact level of treadmill CC is walking on have become a common part of the Yankee news cycle lately, Francisco Cervelli has been quietly working his way back from his April hamstring strain.  It started a few weeks ago when he began running the bases and taking BP at the team complex in Tampa and it's continued over the past week as he's played in a handful of MiL rehab games.  Cervelli is eligible to be activated off the 60-day disabled list this Saturday and Joe is going to have a tough decision to make on what to do with him.  On a team that has holes everywhere, there doesn't seem to be a clear way for Cervelli to come in and help.

Before he pulled up lame running the bases in April, it hadn't been a very good start for Cervelli.  He had just 3 hits and 6 strikeouts in 17 plate appearances, this after another strong ST performance that maybe fooled a few people into thinking the Yankees had more catching depth than they did.  Since he's been out, the Yankees have used top prospect John Ryan Murphy as their backup catcher and he's looked very good, much better than he looked last September.  He's impressed the coaching staff with his work ethic, handled the pitching staff pretty well, looked smooth behind the plate, and even with a recent 3-22 stretch at it dating back to May 22nd he still owns a respectable .296/.321/.370 slash line in 56 PA.

Murphy has firmly established himself as the future behind the plate for the Yankees.  He's much more valuable to the franchise than Gary Sanchez at the moment and that makes him infinitely more valuable than Cervelli.  With Brian McCann entrenched as the present for them behind the plate, there's not much immediate need for Cervelli's services.  Carrying a third catcher on the active roster wouldn't help the Yankees' flexibility issues and he doesn't play another position.  Joe has reportedly told him to get some work at first base as part of his MiL rehab stint, but can Cervelli really help in that role?  We've already seen the likes of Kelly Johnson, Brendan Ryan, and Beltran struggle playing out of position at first.  What's to say Cervelli will be any better?

What's to say his bat can really help either?  Cervelli offers some ability to hit left-handed pitching, but at a .295/.389/.375 career clip against lefties he's hardly a world beater.  Joe wouldn't play him in place of Teix at first against lefties, not when Teix is the only guy hitting for consistent power, and no matter how poorly McCann is swinging the bat against them, I can't see Joe giving regular at-bats to Cervelli at Murphy's expense.  What then, use him at DH?  Soriano actually swings the bat pretty well against southpaws and I'd rather have Beltran hitting against right-handers than Cervelli.

The danger of being a player who gets hurt regularly is that you're always giving your team the chance to find somebody who's better than you and giving that somebody the chance to take your job.  That might be what's happened to Cervelli this year with Murphy's emergence and now it appears as though there's no room for Cervelli on the active roster.  Joe has been pretty quiet on plans for him when he's eligible to be activated on Saturday, maybe because there is no plan yet.  I can't imagine Cervelli has much trade value, so moving him doesn't make much sense, and if there was a trade in the works involving Murphy we would have heard about it by now.

I suppose there's a fair chance that Cervelli re-aggravates his hamstring injury or hurts himself in another way over the next few days.  It wouldn't be the first time.  But if he doesn't, it's going to be interesting to see what call the Yankees make.  He caught all 9 innings for SWB last night so he's ready to go, no restrictions.  Does he really deserve his backup job back though?  Hasn't Murphy done enough to deserve to hold onto it?

Oh who am I kidding?  Of course Cervelli is going to get his job back on Saturday.  He's got more experience, he's shown some of that "True Yankee" grit over the years, and the 3-22 slump is proof that Murphy needs to be sent back down to Triple-A for more seasoning.  My bad, everybody.  Forgot that's how it works around here.  Carry on.

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