Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Cervelli Feeling Chipper Again

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Cervelli Feeling Chipper Again

Article excerpt

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Francisco Cervelli kept insisting that he was fine despite his gloomy circumstances, demoted by the Yankees just before the club broke camp last year.

But the early spring weather in upstate New York was as grim as Cervelli's game and he hadn't gotten past feeling sorry for himself - an emotion that came through during his phone calls home to Venezuela.

That's when Manuel and Damelis Cervelli decided that their 26- year-old son needed an intervention of tough love more than a catching instructor or a batting coach.

"They showed up in Buffalo [where the Class AAA Yankees were playing] and said, 'We're going to follow the bus everywhere, so you'd better play better,' " Cervelli said. "Every time I was 0-for- 3, they'd say, 'Hey, let's go. We came here to see you hit.' "

If they'd been at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex on Saturday, the Cervellis would have seen their son go 0-for-2 with a walk in the Yankees' exhibition opener.

But they also would've witnessed Cervelli exhibit his usual perpetual energy and gun down the one and only runner who attempted to steal a base. As manager Joe Girardi told his competing catchers in a recent meeting, "I made it clear to them ... Defense is No. 1 here."

The battle between Cervelli, Austin Romine and Chris Stewart began on a hot and windy afternoon, an 8-3 victory against the Braves in which Romine contributed a two-run single in two at-bats after Cervelli exited.

Stewart's late March acquisition from San Francisco had sent Cervelli's world spinning. In one transaction, Cervelli had been demoted from Russell Martin's backup at Yankee Stadium to a Class AAA club without a home ballpark.

Due to year-long construction, the Yanks' Scranton/Wilkes-Barre affiliate played its entire 2012 schedule on the road. Cervelli's castle was his car.

And though his parting words were to show the Yankees he was a real major league catcher, the larger truth was that his defense had slipped since the 2009 world championship season. …

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