For the eighth time in nine MLB seasons, Francisco Cervelli missed significant action after breaking his hamate bone in June. Never known for power, the catcher hit just one home run (on Sept. 22) in 393 plate appearances. Cervelli's slash line of .264/.377/.322 varied little before or after surgery. While he offers little in the way of power -- his seven homers in 2015 represent a career high -- he does hold a .280 career batting average. The backstop, who's consistently been ranked among the top pitch-framers in baseball, signed a contract extension in the summer worth $31 million for three years. He'll see as much time as his fragile body allows as one of Pittsburgh's highest paid players.
Cervelli was scratched from Sunday's lineup due to the recurrence of a foot injury, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. "Francisco continues to have a little bit of soreness in the foot, so we just want to make sure that we take care of him," general manager Neal Huntington said. He had an active game Saturday, legging out a triple, but it's never encouraging when a player -- and especially a catcher -- faces chronic foot pain in spring training. Backup Chris Stewart has also had a difficult time staying on the field, potentially opening up additional action for Elias Diaz at some point in 2017.
Cervelli homered and walked two times in three plate appearances Thursday against Detroit. The catcher hit only one home run in 326 at-bats in 2016, so Thursday's effort has to at least boost Cervelli's confidence a little bit. He was also able to catch, which is important because he missed time early in camp with a sore foot. The Bucs don't seem too concerned about Cervelli's condition, but the true test will come when he tries catching an entire game.
Cervelli (foot) caught two innings and went hitless in two at-bats Tuesday in his spring debut, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. Cervelli was added to the lineup about an hour before the start of the game. "We were targeting today if everything went well," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We got good reports on him (Monday), so he's back in play. We'll see how he feels tomorrow." He leads all big league catchers with a .372 OBP over the past three seasons but offers little in the way of power.
Cervelli (foot) will be in the Pirates' lineup for Tuesday's Grapefruit League game against the Blue Jays, Adam Berry of MLB.com reports. Elias Diaz was initially scheduled to handle duties behind the dish, but after reevaluating Cervelli following a pregame workouts, the Pirates have opted to hand their No. 1 catcher his first start of the spring. Cervelli experienced foot discomfort earlier in camp that limited his activities for the first few days, but he shouldn't be too far behind the rest of the Pirates' hitters. While the Pirates value the veteran backstop for his pitch framing and defensive polish behind the plate, his fantasy utility is limited mainly to deeper two-catcher formats due to his lack of pop.
Cervelli (foot) is making progress in his recovery and has been cleared for "modified baseball activities," Stephen Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. The Pirates want Cervelli to work out for them before deciding whether he should play for Italy in the World Baseball Classic. The progress, nonetheless, is a positive sign going forward and could point to the veteran catcher being ready for Opening Day on April 7. Cervelli missed multiple games last season with foot discomfort, so this is a situation worth monitoring in the coming days.