- In 2008, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Francisco as 23rd-best prospect in the Yankees organization. They had Cervelli at #21 in the spring of 2009.
- In 2009, Cervelli played for team Italy in the World Baseball Classic. And Francisco qualified for a spot on this team. His father, Manuel, emigrated from Italy to Venezuela at age 5.
“The economy was good in Venezuela in the 1960s and 1970s,” said Cervelli. “It was really good, so they just tried to make a new life.”
Cervelli’s family founded a transportation company, and his father married a woman from Venezuela and settled there. He said his father is proud and happy that his son is representing his country here.
“His blood is Italian,” Cervelli said, smiling. “You know, he cries for Italy’s soccer team. He’s Italian, 100 percent.”
Cervelli speaks of his time catching for the Italian team in the 2009 World Baseball Classic: “It helped me,” said Cervelli. “How to call important games, how to concentrate hitter by hitter, pitch by pitch, everything.”
Frank spent the winter before 2011 spring training in the Dominican Republic training six days every week with Robinson Cano.
"He told me in the middle of the season (in 2010) that he wanted to help me train my body offensively," Cervelli said. "I just decided to go there. I thought it was the best choice. He's good, man. He knows a lot and he knows what he's doing."
Both players took batting practice, ran and went through the paces of power exercises in a gym. They were coached by former big leaguer Luis Mercedes and Cano's father, Jose, who also played in the Majors.
Cervelli entered 2012 spring training as the Yankees' primary backup catcher, but he was blindsided before Opening Day by a trade with the Giants for Chris Stewart, who bumped Cervelli to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
General manager Brian Cashman said that if there had been an injury to starting catcher Russell Martin, Cervelli, not Stewart, would have stepped in as the starting catcher. But that never happened, and Cervelli spent a tough summer playing for the nomadic Scranton/Wilkes-Barre team, batting .246 in 99 games.
"I feel like those things happened like five years ago," Cervelli said. "We've got to move on, keep moving forward, because I'm only 26 years old, and no one's going to stop my dream. My dream is to be a big league player for the next 10, 12 years—whatever God wants. And no one's going to stop me."
In 2012, Cervelli admittedly took the banishment to Triple-A at the end of spring training badly, moping about it until his parents visited from his native Venezuela and refocused him. In retrospect, though, being sent down may have salvaged a career that Cervelli acknowledges became somewhat stagnant.
“It helped big time, big time,” Francisco said. “It opened my eyes, made me motivated to never quit.”
Cervelli is noted for his passion and his style is demonstrative. He often punctuates strikeouts with an animated series of fist pumps, reminiscent of Tiger Woods. It occasionally rankles opposing players, and at least one former Yankees starter, his fellow Venezuelan Freddy Garcia, complained about Cervelli’s antics after a bad outing two seasons ago.
Cervelli says he is aware of how he comes across and he does not apologize for the way he plays.
“It comes natural,” he said, adding: “I come from Venezuela, where we play baseball like that all the time. That’s the way they teach. There’s only one way to play this game, and that’s with passion.”
The Yankees, particularly Girardi, seem fine with it.
“You don’t want to take something away from a guy if it’s what helps make him who he is,” Girardi said. (Peter Kerasotis)
Cervelli knows he has irked the opposition at times, even though he says he is not trying to show up any players. Still, he does not seem overly concerned with how he is viewed. It is the Yankees’ staff that he is focused on.
“Pitchers like it,” he said. “They’re with me all the time. They know my personality. They know the way I play. Sometimes, as an example, like C. C. Sabathia, he’s a guy relaxed all the time. Sometimes, when things get tough a little bit, I go to the mound and I try to transfer my energy. Then he’s back again.”
Sabathia concurred. “In 2011, I threw a lot of my starts to him, so we have a good relationship,” he said. “He gives you energy. He gives the team energy. I enjoy it. We kind of thrive off it.”
“He’s been like that since I’ve known him, since ’04,” pitcher Ivan Nova said. “I met him in the Dominican Republic. He’s the same guy. He doesn’t let you go to sleep. He keeps you awake. That’s a good thing. That’s one of the things I like the most about him. He keeps you motivated.”
Only two things could seemingly derail Cervelli’s comeback in 2013—his long history with concussions, and his recent history with Biogenesis, the closed anti-aging clinic in South Florida that Major League Baseball is investigating over allegations that it provided performance-enhancing drugs to players.
Cervelli has had three concussions: one while playing winter ball in 2006, the other two with the Yankees, in 2010 and 2011. Though he said that the effects of the third one lingered for two months, he maintains that he is not concerned.
“I’ve only had one bad concussion,” he said. “The other ones were like two-day concussions and then gone. The last one was a bad one. But I’m not thinking about that.”
Though he now wears an oversize batting helmet for protection, Cervelli rationalized his concerns with logic that Yogi Berra would appreciate.
“Concussion is a mental thing,” he said. “It’s in your brain. You don’t want to add stress and rush to come back. What helped me was my family, going to the beach, relaxing, just forgetting about myself and baseball. When I did that, in three days I was fine.”
Francisco's Mom, Darnelis, always has told her son, "No matter what, just play. Baseball is so beautiful.'
"'If you have a bad game today, tomorrow you have an opportunity to do something different and people forget about that. So smile all the time. Do what you like. It's your passion, and they pay you. You're lucky, man.'
"Even if I had three strikeouts, she was happy," Cervelli said. "She's always got something. I'd say, 'Mom, I got three strikeouts,' and she'd say, 'Yeah, but you won the game. You helped this guy to do something.' Always looking on the positive side. It's a gift."
It was the kick that Cervelli needed, and he wasn't surprised that his mother was the one to deliver the unvarnished messages he needed.
"She was always tough," Cervelli said. "I remember when I started with the Yankees in the Dominican, I called her crying and said, 'I don't like the food. I'm not eating anything. It's tough here.' She said, 'Oh. You told me you wanted to play baseball,' and she hung up the phone.
"She's my everything, man. My Dad is the guy who cries, the guy who's going to come to you and hug you and tell you everything is going to be fine. If my Mom cries, I never see it. She never gives you panic. She always wants to let you know how good you are and the fighter that you are."
- In August 2013, Cervelli and 12 other player were handed 50-game suspensions that effectively ended their regular seasons, for their connection to Biogenesis, a former anti-aging clinic in Florida linked to performance-enhancing substances.
Cervelli is an avid soccer fan, and a supporter of Serie A football club Juventus.
July 23, 2015: Francisco Cervelli certainly earned consideration for a spot in the 2015 All-Star Game. He finished third among National League catchers in the fan voting, and his first-half numbers ranked up there with the best backstops in the NL.Cervelli didn't wind up making it to Cincinnati. But he did get an All-Star jersey, thanks to Pirates starter A.J. Burnett.Burnett gave Cervelli his red-and-black batting practice jersey as a gift. He signed it and wrote a short note thanking Cervelli for his work behind the plate all year."This is the best gift I ever received from a teammate. That means a lot," Cervelli said. "The best thing, for me, is making the pitchers happy. This guy's been just phenomenal with me as a friend and a professional on the mound."That means a lot, the All-Star jersey. It's going to have a place on my wall.""I wouldn't have got there without him," said Burnett, a first-time All-Star in what he has said will be his final season. (A Berry - MLB.com - July 25, 2015)
November 22, 2016: Cervelli was added to the roster of team Italy for the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
In 2003, Cervelli signed with the Yankees, via scout Hector Rincones, out of Venezuela.
Francisco had sat at a kitchen table in his parents' home in Venezuela and told his parents he was going to be a big league catcher.
- January 17, 2014: Frank and the Yankees agreed to terms on a one-year, non-guaranteed contract avoiding salary arbitration. The contract is reportedly worth $700,000.
November 12, 2014: The Pirates sent RHP Justin Wilson to the Yankees, acquiring Cervelli.
January 15, 2016: The Pirates and Cervelli avoided arbitration, agreeing to a one-year contract for $3.5 million.
May 17, 2016: Francisco found himself on the verge of free agency, contemplating his future. "I would love to retire with this team," he said over the winter, "because I don't think it's good to be jumping around too much."
Cervelli won't be jumping anywhere for the next four years, and he's a step closer to retiring in Pittsburgh. The Pirates agreed to a three-year, $31 million contract extension with Cervelli, keeping their fan-favorite catcher on board and off the market.
|DOB:||3/6/1986||Agent:||Rick Thurman - Beverly Hills Sprt. Counc|
|Birth City:||Valencia, Venezuela|
|Draft:||2003 - Yankees - Free agent|
Cervelli is a switch-hitting catcher. He hits the ball to all fields, but doesn't have much power. He has only fair bat speed but a level swing that stays in the strike zone for a long time. He hasn't hit for much power.
Francisco's bat is suspect. It may keep him from being a regular in the Majors.
- Frank is improving in his plate discipline. He has a real good batting eye. But he lacks bat speed and strength to hit home runs.
June 15, 2009: Cervelli had his first three-hit game in the big leagues, improving his batting average to .298. Though highly respected for his defensive skills and ability to call a good game, Cervelli was surprising everyone with his consistent hitting.
- He has turned into a nice high-average hitting catcher. In 2014, he batted .301 in a part-time role with the Yankees. And in 2015, he batted .295 playing full-time for the Pirates.
- As of the start of the 2017 season, Cervelli's career Major League stats were: .280 batting average, 18 home runs and 410 hits with 168 RBI in 1,465 at-bats.
- Francisco is a very good defensive catcher. He can catch and throw with the best of them. His pitching staff loves to throw to him because he receives the ball so well. And he blocks the ball well.
- Cervelli is a high energy catcher. He has the right attitude and approach. He is very impressive with his defensive skills.
- He handles his pitching staff well. Pitchers like to throw to him.
- Frank frames pitches and blocks balls in the dirt very well.
In 2007, Cervelli led the Florida State League's catchers in fielding percentage (.997) and erasing base-stealers (41 percent).
In 2009, Frank nailed 13 of 21 base-stealers during his time in the Majors, a sparkling 62 percent.
- Frank is tough. He has what it takes to grind through a long season.
- Cervelli understands his role and priorities in the Yankees organization. "My job here is to be good with the pitchers," said Cervelli. "I have to catch, catch, catch."
In the ninth inning of the Pirates' win over the Brewers, Francisco Cervelli traded in his catcher's gear for a first baseman's mitt. How did he feel about that?
"I like to catch," Cervelli said, smiling. "I'll do everything for my team. But I like to catch."
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle intended to give Cervelli a chance at first base during the last week of Spring Training 2016, but minor injuries to other players kept Hurdle from following through on that plan.
Cervelli is a gifted defensive catcher, highly praised by his pitchers for his game-calling and one of the game's most highly regarded pitch-framers. But there is a scenario in which he moves over to first base while Chris Stewart plays behind the plate.
"We talked about using it as an option during the season, to get both bats in play, depending on the development of our first-base situation," Hurdle said. "Cervelli can flat go over and play first base. We all are aware of the fact that he likes to catch first, but he has gone over there, and he's given innings over there.
"[Cervelli has] good feet. He's got good hands," Hurdle said. "Whether it's a late-game move to stay strong defensively, whether it's a double-switch situation to get another right-handed bat against a left-handed bullpen or whether it's an opportunity to start both of them against a left-handed starter. It can play a couple different ways." (Berry - MLB.com - 4/19/16)
Francisco, who is one of the best at pitch framing in the Majors, has a deep feeling for every pitch that comes his way: Love. As he told Mark Simon of ESPN about his catching method:
"What I've learned is that you have to love the ball. You don't have to fight the ball. Let it come to you. Love, not fight ... love." (May 4, 2016)
- Pirates pitchers call it a "vacuum." They throw a pitch down in the zone, maybe even just under the zone, and Francisco Cervelli's gloved left hand sucks it up.
Cervelli has a knack for receiving and presenting pitches -- for pitch framing, as it's known around the game.
"He makes every pitch look really good, even your bad pitches," right-hander Jameson Taillon said. "That's a big confidence-builder."
Clubs have been working for years to fully quantify the impact of pitch framing and catcher defense. The Pirates are clearly believers in the value of strong defensive catchers. With Statcast™'s tracking technology and the wealth of information at BaseballSavant.com, we can see where Cervelli ranks among the game's best at the art of stealing strikes.
"The best catchers are the ones who know how to catch the ball no matter where it is, and Cervelli's the best at it," Steven Brault said. "It's all how you receive it and how he receives it. It's more consistent. It's always the same. Having that reputation helps, too. People know he's good at it."
One of the best, in fact. How do we know that? Start by dividing the plate into 14 zones -- nine within the strike zone, four just outside it. Then look for pitches in those four areas outside the strike zone, pitches tracked as balls but called strikes.
Among Major League catchers who received at least 500 pitches in 2015, Cervelli's first full season as a starting catcher, he "stole" 1,174 such strikes, the most in the Majors.
- Frank is a below-average runner.
- August 2007: Cervelli was sidelined when he hurt his knee in a home-plate collision.
March 8-June, 2008: Francisco's right forearm was fractured when Rays infielder Elliott Johnson lowered his shoulder and tried to jar the ball loose from Cevelli. He crashed into the Yankee catcher as the relay throw came in. Cervelli held on to record the putout but he had to leave the game after being attended to on the field. A brawl broke out on the field between the Rays and Yankees.
Cervelli underwent surgery on March 12 at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center. The procedure was performed by Dr. Melvin Rosenwasser. And Francisco only played in 27 games in 2008.
- Mid-June through August 2, 2008: After returning from the above injury, Frank only played three games and then went down again with a strained left knee.
- August 2009: Cervelli was on the D.L. for about a month.
- March 6, 2010: Frank was able to walk off the field on his own after being hit in the batting helmet by a pitch from the Blue Jays' Zech Zinicola, causing a concussion. Cervelli was taken to a hospital for a CT scan.
- March 2-April 29, 2011: Cervelli fouled a ball off his foot while batting in an exhibition game. A CT scan and MRI revealed a fractured left foot. He was placed in a walking boot for a month and started the season on the D.L.
- September 9, 2011: Francisco was on the 7-day D.L. with a concussion.
- April 26, 2013: Cervelli fractured his right hand on Ivan Nova's fifth pitch. And by the third inning, the righthander also departed the game against the Blue Jays with pain in his right elbow.
The Yankees announced that Cervelli would require surgery on his hand and is expected to miss a minimum of six weeks after he was struck by a foul tip off the bat of Toronto leadoff hitter Rajai Davis.
April 13-June 17, 2014: Francisco was diagnosed with a Grade 2 hamstring strain and went on the D.L.
- June 11, 2016: Cervelli was on the DL with a broken hamate bone in the left hand.
- June 12-July 19, 2016: Frank underwent surgery to remove a fractured hook of the hamate bone in his left hand, and he'll remain on the disabled list for at least another month.