Yankees Eschew Preference For Veteran Backup Catcher





NEW YORK—Most big league teams prefer to carry a grizzled veteran as their backup catcher. The Yankees have been no exception, recently going with the likes of John Flaherty (2003-05) and Jose Molina (2007-09).

But when New York decided that it would not retain Molina, it turned to 24-year-old Francisco Cervelli, who just completed his rookie season, as Jorge Posada's caddy.

While the Yankees' $200 million payroll was a contributing factor in Molina's departure, many in the organization feel comfortable with Cervelli despite his youth and inexperience. He certainly is not new to the organization, having signed out of Venezuela as a 16-year-old in 2003.

Concerns that Cervelli's development would be better served by playing every day at Triple-A have been assuaged by the fact that the Posada will require ample rest as he embarks on his age-38 season.

But at least one evaluator outside the organization believes Cervelli eventually will be a big league starter.

"He will play every day,'' a scout said. "He will hit .260 without much power, five to 10 homers. He can catch and throw. He brings a lot of energy, pitchers like to throw to him and he has an above-average throwing arm.''

That was on display last season when he nailed 13 of 21 (61.9 percent) of basestealers.

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Cervelli missed most of the 2008 season with a broken right wrist suffered in a big league spring training game. In two big league stints last year, Cervelli appeared in 42 games (25 starts) and batted .298/.309/.372 in 94 at-bats.

Since Molina evolved into A.J. Burnett's personal catcher in the second half last year, it's assumed Cervelli will inherit that role.

Cervelli may not have long to assert himself, however. The deep catching corps making its way through the system also includes prospects Jesus Montero, Austin Romine, J.R. Murphy and Gary Sanchez.

YANKEE DOODLES

• If Cervelli begins in New York, then 33-year-old journeyman catcher Mike Rivera, signed as a free agent, will open as starter for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

• The Yankees publicly state that Montero's future is at catcher, but during workouts prior to the opening of camp, the 20-year-old hitting machine took ground balls at first base. Montero and Romine will each participate in his second big league camp.