Francisco Cervelli (born March 6, 1986) is a Major League Baseball catcher for the New York Yankees. He was an international signee by the Yankees in 2003 and played in the 2009 World Baseball Classic for the Italian team. He is a Venezuelan of Italian descent.

Baseball careerEdit


In Venezuela, Cervelli played shortstop, second base, and sometimes pitched. The Yankees signed him as an international free agent with the understanding that he would try catching.[1]

Minor leaguesEdit

Cervelli played in the Dominican Summer League in 2003. He arrived as a switch hitter, but was told to stick to batting right-handed.[1]

After struggling to adjust to professional baseball in 2004 and 2005, Cervelli batted .309 for the Short Season Single-A Staten Island Yankees in 2006. In 2007, he played for the Tampa Yankees, where he batted .279 with an OBP of .387 and two home runs. Baseball America rated him the 23rd-best prospect on the Yankees prior to the 2008 season. He began the 2009 season with the Double-A Trenton Thunder.

Elliot Johnson controversyEdit

On March 8, 2008, Cervelli fractured his wrist on a controversial play during a spring training game against the Tampa Bay Rays, when Rays infielder Elliot Johnson collided with him at home plate in the ninth inning. Joe Girardi, the Yankees manager said, "I think it was uncalled for, it's spring training and you are going to get people hurt and we got Cervelli hurt."[2] He didn't return to action until June 2008.

Major leaguesEdit

Following the completion of the 2008 minor league season, Cervelli was called up to the Yankees. He made his major league debut on September 18, 2008, as a defensive replacement. He went 0-5 in his brief time in the majors.

He was called up by the Yankees on May 5, 2009, when Jorge Posada was placed on the 15-day disabled list, though he was batting only .190, with a .266 On-base Percentage and .310 Slugging Percentage at Double-A Trenton at the time of the call-up, and had not played in Triple-A. He made his first major league start on May 7, after Jose Molina injured his quad. He recorded his first major league hit, a single, on May 8, against the Baltimore Orioles, while also catching for pitcher CC Sabathia during a complete game shutout. Cervelli asserted himself as a reliable defensive catcher for the New York Yankees, and has received substantial praise from his teammates.[3] Though Cervelli was sent to the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees on July 8, 2009 when Jose Molina was activated off of the disabled list, Yankees manager Joe Girardi made clear that he was impressed with Cervelli's performance.[4]

He is one of only a handful of players, including fellow Yankee catcher Jorge Posada, not to wear batting gloves.

On June 24, 2009, Cervelli hit his first major league home run against Kris Medlen of the Atlanta Braves, breaking up a no hitter. On September 16, 2009, Cervelli had his first walk-off hit - a single in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Cervelli started the 2010 season on the Yankees' 25-man roster to serve as the backup catcher to Jorge Posada, and served as the Yankees' starting catcher while Posada recovered from a foot injury.[5] On March 6, 2010, Cervelli was hit in the head by a pitch. He was removed from the game with a concussion. Shortly after, citing another concussion Cervelli suffered while playing winter ball, the Yankees suggested he begin wearing the Rawlings S-100 protective helmet, a bulkier model made to withstand 100 mph fastballs. This briefly earned him the nickname "Gazoo," a reference to a character in the 1960s 'The Flintstones' TV cartoon.[6]

In 2011, Cervelli entered spring training as the backup to Russell Martin.[7] Cervelli broke his foot in early March, and missed the beginning of the 2011 season.[8] On April 29th, 2011, the New York Yankees activated Cervelli from the DL, replacing Gustavo Molina who was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [9] On May 8, Cervelli hit his first home run of the season, his first career grand slam in a series tiebreaker on the road against Texas, bringing in Nick Swisher, Jorge Posada, and Brett Gardner. [10]

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