Cervelli Surfaces

Cervelli is impressing a lot of scouts in 2006

Francisco Cervelli was the ‘other' catcher on the GCL Yankees last year. Hitting just .190 in 58 at-bats, he was considered a good defensive catcher with a weak bat, while Jose Gil attracted most of the attention as an all-around catcher. This year though, Cervelli is drawing attention by hitting .282 for the Staten Island Yankees.

"I feel so happy because before the game I am working so hard," Francisco Cervelli said about his season. "I am taking a lot of swings [in batting practice]. So I feel happy about that. You can see in the game where I work out, so it's good."

"He's got a lot of energy," Manager Gaylen Pitts said. "He brings a lot of energy to the table. He's got great catching skills. He can catch and throw. He has a quick release. He has learned how to call a game. He's gotten better at that. He has the tools and he's starting to hit a little bit. The only question mark was if he'll hit, but he's kept his average up around .300 most of the year."

One reason for his success at the plate is because he has abandoned batting from his weaker side. Cervelli originally signed with the Yankees as a switch-hitting shortstop, but felt uncomfortable batting left-handed, which may have impacted his GCL numbers. Like teammate Wilmer Pino, most of his at-bats came left-handed as the Gulf Coast League had few southpaw pitchers last year.

"I was a switch-hitter when I signed with the Yankees in the Dominican," Cervelli explained. "But I didn't feel comfortable with my lefty swing. So I just hit with my right-hand, and it felt better just like that."

Cervelli cited his move behind the plate as the reason he had to abandon hitting left-handed. With all his extra duties learning to catch and handle the pitching staff, he could not afford the time to focus on hitting from both sides.

"Before, my position was shortstop and it was different," Cervelli explained. "Now I am a catcher and I need to work more. Sometimes you tire. You need to try too much."

Cervelli has decided to focus all his energy on batting right-handed and hitting coach Ty Hawkins believes that Cervelli's hard work has made helped him improve his swing more than anything else.

"He's been working his tail off," Hawkins said. "He's made some adjustments to his swing, shortening up some stuff. He's more consistent. His work ethic is tremendous."

The hard work has paid off with a .282 batting average after Sunday's action, with two home runs. He has shown a patient approach, posting a .388 on-base percentage, and Hawkins believes the young catcher has more power potential he can tap.

"I think if he can stay short with his swing, and doesn't get excited with the pitch inside and doesn't try to too much with it, he'll be stronger and get stronger as he gets older," Hawkins said. "And I see him being able to have a little bit more power than he's showing now."

With a solid bat, Cervelli could become a great catching prospect. His work ethic has already made him a strong defensive catcher, despite converting from shortstop.

"It's not easy," Cervelli said of the transition, "but they think I have some qualities for a catcher. They think I'm fast with my legs. In the Dominican, they showed me a lot of things at catcher. I had a very good coach there. It's not easy, but I love this position. I don't want to change now. I'm not a fast runner so I love catching."

"He's very good defensively," Pitts said. "He works at it. Having [catching instructor] Julio [Mosquera] here to work with him on drills has helped him. He stays on top of him. He knows we expect a lot out of our catchers and he's done a good job."

Cervelli has worked hard to make the transition to catcher. With his defense now a strong point in his game, he plans to continue improving his hitting for the rest of the season.

"I think I need to work on batting practice," Cervelli said. "Because I catch bullpen everyday and we got the best coach for pitching in Carlos Chantres. It's really good. We work 15 minutes everyday. So we catch bullpen. And hitting you have to work on every day because sometimes you don't play for two days, so you need to be ready all the time."

"I'd like to see him doing what he is right now," Hawkins said of his goals for Cervelli down the stretch. "Just to maintain what he's doing. I think he's made enough adjustments this year to satisfy me and him, and he's seeing the improvement of it. So I think there are things to work on as he develops through his career, but right now, I'm happy with what he's doing."

One thing is certain: Francisco Cervelli has caught the Yankees attention and is no longer just the ‘other' catcher.

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