Francisco Cervelli has averaged 402 plate appearances with a .274/.365/.369 line and a 0.58 BB/K over the past three seasons. That's hardly exciting offense, but he's fueled by that helpful batting eye and he hasn't had a contact rate below 77.2 percent in any of those years. It's a skill set that won't harm two-catcher lineups. However, while backstops often generate more offense late in their careers, the soon-to-be 32-year-old seems like a weak bet for such a breakthrough, considering his career 50.0 percent groundball rate, which pegs him for single-digit homers most years. Injuries have piled up, including hand- and hamstring-related absences last season, but Cervelli boasts a fine reputation as a pitch framer. That should help keep him in the primary role to begin 2018.
Cervelli credits an improved workout routine and diet for his excellent performance during the Grapefruit League, Adam Berry of MLB.com reports. Entering play Tuesday, Cervelli has recorded nine hits -- including two home runs -- in 23 at-bats. Cervelli is cautious not to overreact to the small sample of spring at-bats, but noted that he feels "better and better" coming off back-to-back injury-marred seasons. The veteran backstop said he cut out fried foods from his diet and went gluten- and dairy-free this offseason, which he hopes will help with his flexibility and ability to avoid trips to the disabled list. While Cervelli lacks the power to be a high-end fantasy contributor at catcher, he's been a tough out at the plate when healthy, logging on-base percentages above .340 each of the past five seasons.
Cervelli, who was shut down in August due to an assortment of injuries, is healthy heading into spring training, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. "I feel good and ready to go," the catcher said Tuesday. He was limited to 81 games in 2017, slashing .249/.342/.370 in 304 plate appearances. Cervelli, who has played in more than 101 games only once in 10 seasons, figures to bat sixth in a lineup bereft of top talent. With a higher salary ($10.5 mill) than any other player left in Pittsburgh, the rebuilding Pirates could look to move his contract -- if there are any takers. His strongest fantasy category is likely on-base percentage, where he holds a .365 mark in three years with Pittsburgh. Elias Diaz will serve as Cervelli's backup and see extra time if the 31-year-old suffers another injury.
Cervelli (quad) has been shut down for the remainder of the season, Adam Berry of MLB.com reports. Cervelli has dealt with a myriad of injuries this season, and it seems his latest ailment -- a left quad issue -- will end his season prematurely. "The reality is we've run out of time," manager Clint Hurdle said. Seeing as the Pirates are out of playoff contention, it doesn't make much sense to push Cervelli to return for what would be meaningless games. He'll finish the season with a .249/.342/.370 line and five homers in 81 games. Elias Diaz and Chris Stewart are expected to split duties behind the dish for the rest of the year.
Cervelli (quad) took live batting practice and ran the bases in cleats Wednesday and could still return this season, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. He will try squatting drills Friday but is still without a firm timetable for return. While he could get back in 2017, we're running out of time in the season for him to make an impact, especially since his main contributions (batting average, compiling runs and RBI) are better suited to long stretches.
Cervelli (quadriceps) has hit a "plateau" in his squatting activities according to head athletic trainer Todd Tomczyk, Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. At this point in time, it seems relatively unknown when Cervelli will make his way back onto the field. It was expected that the catcher would be able to come back after a 10-day stay on the DL, but he hasn't been able to progress as quickly as the club would've liked, and may continue to rehab over the weekend instead of rejoining the team. Although there hasn't been a clear timetable on Cervelli's recovery, if he's able to ramp up his efforts over the next couple days, he could be back for the series in Milwaukee next week.