Francisco Cervelli: Behind the demotion
When the Yankees finished the final game of Spring Training vs. the Mets on Wednesday, it seemed that the Yankees had their roster all set. With the addition of David Phelps & Clay Rapada to the bullpen, it seemed everything was set and stone, until 2 moves shook Yankees fans to the core.
Earlier that Wednesday morning, Marc Carig of the Star Ledger tweeted his observations around the clubhouse. Adam Warren was clearing out his locker to head out to minor league camp, D.J Mitchell’s locker was empty, David Phelps came out of Joe Girardi’s office about to make a phone call but then there was George Kontos. Carig described his face expression as “mortified”. When the Yankees finished their game and Girardi addressed the media, everything came to light. George Kontos had been traded from the New York Yankees to the San Francisco Giants for backup catcher Chris Stewart. But that was only the beginning. The same day, not too long after the Yankees announced that they traded Kontos, they also revealed that Francisco Cervelli was being demoted to Triple-AAA to start the 2012 season. It wasn’t only a shock to Yankees fans that Cervelli would not be in the Major League clubhouse, but it was also a shock to Cervelli. Beat writers described him as “red-eyed and shocked” as he addressed the media.
There is plenty reason for Cervelli to be upset with the fact that he was being demoted after 3 seasons of playing back-up with the Yankees. Cervelli had played well during Spring Training (as did a lot of players that did not make the cut). Sure, his AVG was .209 but Cervelli had 1 HR, 7 RBI’s and worked 3 walks, which is expected as a backup-catcher.
When the Yankees traded Jesus Montero during the off-season, it seemed as if Cervelli was going to back-up Russell Martin. It had been that way during the 2011 season and fans expected the same fate to happen in 2012. But there was a slight difference between the 2011 season and the 2012 season; Austin Romine. Yes, Austin Romine was in the Yankees organization in 2011 and in 2012, but in 2012 he didn’t play for most of Spring Training due to back issues. On Wednesday, Romine experienced another set-back in his road to recovery which had prompted the move to send Cervelli to Triple-AAA.
A lot of fans would probably wonder, why not just send Stewart to Triple-AAA to be the starting catcher and just leave Cervelli in the Majors? The answer is quite simple: Cervelli has options. Stewart has none. When the media spoke with Joe Girardi, Brian Cashman & Francisco Cervelli, it had seemed to be the case. Here is what each of them said about the situation:
BRIAN CASHMAN: “That will give us a lot more depth given the Romine injury is going to take a little longer because he had a setback recently. We feel that Cervelli is a major-league backup, without a doubt. Now we’re back to where we were before the Romine injury, even though it’s not a good situation for Cervy to go back to Triple-A. Organizationally we’re in a good place with Russell Martin, Stewart and Cervelli.”
JOE GIRARDI: “He’s been here the last three years basically for us. He got called up and kind of burst on the scene in 2009 because of some injuries, and this was a tough one. Our depth for catching with Romine getting hurt was really thin. We know how quick it can happen for a catcher, but it was tough. It’s as tough as I’ve had to do.”
Francisco Cervelli: “I’m disappointed with this, but that’s never going to change anything. All my life I’ve had to do things, and I’ve had to do it double, triple. If they want me to prove that I can catch in the big leagues, I’ll go and prove it, that I have to be here. … I don’t understand their reason. I think maybe you’ve got to ask Cash, or somebody else. Maybe the other guy is better than I am right now. Just play baseball, no matter where it is, and show them that I’m a big league catcher, like they say.”
So is this the end of seeing Francisco Cervelli? Of course not. If Russell Martin got injured, then Cervelli would be the first one up to the Majors to fill the void. At the end of the day, this is about having depth in all of your ball clubs and not to worry about who is starting in Triple-AAA or Double-AA. All Cervelli has to do is prove that he belongs in the big leagues, and if he does that then it won’t be long until we see Cisco the Kid in the dugout, looking out at a ball game in Yankee Stadium.