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Francisco Cervelli apparent winner of Yankees' catching competition

Though no official decision announced, Cervelli only contender left in camp
03/26/2014 11:45 AM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Francisco Cervelli leads the Yankees in average, home runs, and runs scored this spring.(AP)
It appears as if the Yankees' catching situation is, as of Wednesday morning, "unofficially official."

Although neither Joe Girardi nor the Yankees had officially announced a decision, both Austin Romine and non-roster invitee Jose Gil's lockers were cleared out when the clubhouse opened Wednesday, with whispers that Romine had been optioned to Triple-A; combine those departures with John Ryan Murphy's option to Triple-A Tuesday, and that leaves Brian McCann and Francisco Cervelli as the only catchers in camp.

Translation: it's safe to say Cervelli has won the job backing up McCann.

Girardi had said Tuesday that he wouldn't yet announce his decision but that the winner "has played pretty well," and he followed that up Wednesday morning with another semi-vague statement of "Well, I haven't told (Cervelli), but he's about the only one left in camp."

To the cynical eye, it may have appeared the job was Cervelli's to lose all along anyway - especially considering he's out of minor-league options - but the 28-year-old's play this spring never put him in any danger of doing just that. Through Tuesday, Cervelli leads the team this spring in batting average (.455), slugging percentage (.909), OPS (1.409), home runs (4) and runs scored (10), and he has also thrown out 50 percent of attempted base-stealers (5 out of 10).

No matter when Girardi officially announces the decision, things could still change - as they did in 2012, when the Yankees traded for Chris Stewart at the very end of camp and assumed backup Cervelli was optioned to Triple-A instead. Cervelli noted that when asked Wednesday, saying "If my luggage shows up in Houston, I'll be happy," but based on how Joe Girardi praised Cervelli's path since the Stewart trade, it doesn't appear likely.

"I think (in going to Triple-A in 2012) he really improved; I thought he became a better catcher and I thought he improved offensively," Girardi said. "I think we saw that improvement 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."

"I had a lot of time to think, to sit down and think about what I have to change, what I have to improve, and how I can manage my life," Cervelli added. "This career can consume your life, you know. You're always thinking about baseball. You go home and it's baseball, baseball, baseball. I try to have a balance with my life, with my family, with everything else.

As far as a role goes, Girardi doesn't think he will use Cervelli as a "personal catcher" for anyone per se, but more as a true backup to spell Brian McCann once or twice a week as needed.

"We expect Brian to catch a lot, but if we feel he needs a day off - maybe it's two out of eight or nine days - we know that Cervy can do a really good job," the skipper said. "He's been around here. He's pretty familiar with most of the guys. I'll just put him in when I feel the day is right."

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