Remember Francisco Cervelli for Passion He Brought to Pirates

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), August 26, 2019 | Go to article overview

Remember Francisco Cervelli for Passion He Brought to Pirates


I won't remember the lucrative contract extension that turned bad for the team or the too many injuries that forced him to miss too many games or the frequent concussions that surely will shorten his career and perhaps his life.

I will remember how he played the game every day with unbridled passion and how he shared his heart - literally - with Pittsburgh and its baseball fans and how those fans gave the love right back to him.

Most of all, I will remember Francisco Cervelli for being a key player on the 2015 Pirates, the wretched franchise's best team in almost a quarter-century and quite likely its final competitive team as long as Bob Nutting is the owner.

.

How can the Pirates win without Russell Martin?

I remember asking that question many times. I'm guessing fans did, as well. I still can hear them screaming, "Re-sign Russ! Re-sign Russ!" at PNC Park late in the 2014 wild-card loss to the San Francisco Giants. Martin teared up that night, but it didn't stop him from leaving the Pirates as a free agent to sign a five-year, $82 million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays six weeks later.

How in the world can the Pirates win without Russell Martin?

I had my doubts that Cervelli would be the answer when Neal Huntington traded reliever Justin Wilson to the New York Yankees to get him. Even then, Cervelli had a long injury history. He played in just 49 games in the 2014 season. His 93 games in 2010 were his career high.

This was the guy who was going to replace Martin?

"He knows what we had with Russ," A.J. Burnett said of Cervelli early in the 2015 season. "You're starting to see what we have with him. We picked up a hell of a catcher."

Cervelli turned out to be more than that. He started 124 games in 2015, the most by a Pirates catcher since Jason Kendall in 2004. He hit .295 and had a .370 on-base percentage, 10th-best in the National League. His .357 average in the seventh inning-and-later led MLB.

But Cervelli did his best work with the Pirates pitchers, who finished with a 3.21 earned-run average, second-best in the National League. Do you want to know why the team won 98 games? That was the primary reason.

No one benefitted more from Cervelli than Burnett, who rejoined the Pirates before the 2015 season and went 9-7 with a 3.18 ERA after an awful 2014 season with the Philadelphia Phillies. He and Cervelli were teammates with the Yankees from 2009-11. …

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