By: Matt Kardos
(TRENTON)- Yankees backup catcher, Francisco Cervelli, began a rehab assignment with the Trenton Thunder on Wednesday night at Arm & Hammer Park. The 28-yar old Venezuelan product is nearing a big-league return after being placed on the DL on April 15 with a strained hamstring.
Cervelli has served as a steady back-up in the Bronx for a majority of his major league career, but with Brian McCann in tow and rookie John Ryan Murphy playing exceptionally well in that role, the Yankees are looking to increase his versatility by having him play first base. He did that on Wednesday night.
Prior to last night's game, Cervelli had only previously played first base on two occasions over the course of his seven-year professional career.
“I feel like I need to work a lot,” Cervelli said. “It’s a different position, but at the same time I think I can do it. We'll see what happens tonight.”
Cervelli added,"I’ve always been the 26th man on the roster. If everybody got hurt, I’d go in and play. I’ve played third, second, first. I love to catch and that’s what I’d like to do, but right now I’m looking to help the team as much as I can. Every time they give me the chance, I will.”
Cervelli admits that the biggest adjustment that he has to make in learning a new position is not so much mechanical or fundamental.
“I’m too hyper,” Cervelli explained. “Sometimes I have to be moving around and jump a little bit, because it’s not easy. Catching, I’m always squatting and blocking and everything. This is a little adjustment I have to do, to stay calm. It’s hard for me, but I can do it. You may see me dancing out there."
Cervelli went 0-2 and drew two walks in his first of two games in his return trip to Trenton. He played 38 games for the Thunder spanning the 2008-2009 seasons and was called up to the major leagues during both seasons. Cervelli recalls some very fond memories of his days spent with manager Tony Franklin and his career in Double-A.
"I'm excited to be here one more time," said Cervelli. "In 2008, that was the first time that I got called up in September, right after we won the championship here. I think that was the best day of my life."
Cervelli added, "The fans here are so good, Tony [Franklin], I have a lot of respect for him. He is a guy that helped me a lot and every time I see him, I feel so happy. I don't think I wanted to be here under these circumstances, like injuries, but that is what we've got and we have to enjoy it and play hard."
After playing seven innings at first base on Wednesday, Franklin said that Cervelli was slated to be back behind the plate for all nine innings on Thursday night in th series finale with Richmond.
"I will be here today and tomorrow," admitted Cervelli. 'After that, I am just waiting to hear what the next step is. I feel that I am ready to go."