The Yankees optioned John Ryan Murphy to minor league camp yesterday, and sent Austin Romine packing to Triple-A Scranton this morning. And with that, only Brian McCann and Francisco Cervelli remain as catchers in big league camp. Barring an injury or trade, Cervelli will be the backup catcher to begin the season.
A day after manager Joe Girardi named Michael Pineda the fifth starter, this job title doesn't come as much of a surprise after Cervelli put together a very impressive spring, easily outplaying both Romine and Murphy, pretty much from Day 1.
Cervelli has the highest batting average, highest slugging percentage, most home runs and most runs scored in Yankees camp this spring. He’s also thrown out five of 10 runners trying to steal second base. On most teams, he would have played well enough to win a starting job, but the Yankees didn't pay McCann $85 million to sit on the bench this season.
Cervelli pickup in the spring right where he left off last April when he suffered a broken right hand when a foul tip hit him behind the plate, and then a 50-game PED suspension ended his season altogether. That good play early in the year, coupled with the fact that he is out of minor league options probably put him as the front-runner to win the job when camp began, but either way, he played well enough to keep him ahead.
“I think just playing that whole year (playing in Triple-A in 2012) he really improved,” Girardi said. “I thought he became a better catcher. I thought he proved offensively. I think we saw we saw the improvements 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.”