Cervelli earning respect with Yankees

Cervelli earning respect with Yanks

NEW YORK -- Very early in his Yankees career, the welcoming words Francisco Cervelli heard upon his clubhouse arrival were, essentially, that the bats he brought from Double-A Trenton would be just a bonus.

With veteran backstops Jorge Posada and Jose Molina both on the disabled list, the Yankees wanted to see Cervelli save runs behind the plate with his strong throwing arm. Whatever else he could provide would be wonderful, but not necessary.

The 23-year-old may be exceeding all expectations. He raised his average to .370 entering Wednesday's play and his voice has become a trusted one on the bench. It's becoming a reliable recipe: Cervelli calls the pitches he wants, and the Yankees' starters succeed.

"I feel very lucky right now to be the everyday catcher with these guys," Cervelli said. "They give me confidence and let me do the same things I was doing in the Minor Leagues. When I feel something and I want to call one pitch, they let me do that. That's exciting for me."

It may be rare around the big leagues for a rookie to gain trust so quickly, but Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte -- who started Monday -- said that the perception is not a myth. When Molina went down, Pettitte said that he grabbed Cervelli, telling him, "Look, you're in the middle of the fire here, buddy."

"I like what I see just when you talk to him," Pettitte said. "The look in his eyes is very confident. If he's confident in what he's doing, no matter how much experience I have out there or any of these other guys, it helps you. It's what you want to do. I'll ask his advice. He's really paying a lot of attention and doing a great job, that's for sure."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi, a former big league backstop himself, has raved about Cervelli's abilities.

"This young man can catch, throw and block and do a lot of things, and offensively he's been a big contributor for us," Girardi said. "He's played very, very well."

Cervelli said that he has been blessed by having former catchers to lean upon, like Girardi and bench coach Tony Pena. Cervelli also credits his time in the World Baseball Classic, during which he had an opportunity to represent Team Italy and work with former big league backstop Mike Piazza.

"I'm lucky," Cervelli said. "These guys help me every day, telling me to ask a lot of things. If I have something on my mind, I just say, 'Hey, Joe,' or, 'Hey, Tony.' They've got answers all the time. Since I got here, they gave me a lot of confidence, especially Joe. He said, 'You're here for a reason, and we know you can do it.'"

As for that robust batting average, Cervelli knows that the small sample size (27 at-bats) is working in his favor. But he also believes the .190 batting average he left behind at Double-A Trenton was not a true indication of his ability.

"I always had confidence offensively," Cervelli said. "I know what kind of hitter I am. I'm not a power hitter, I'm a hitter in situations. I always focus on my defense and the pitchers, and when it comes to my turn to hit, that's what I focus on then."

Pitching matchup
NYY: RHP Phil Hughes (1-2, 7.56 ERA)
The last time Hughes faced the Orioles, he allowed eight earned runs and was knocked out in the second inning. Now he'll have a chance for revenge, in what could be a make-or-break start for Hughes' future in the rotation, with Yankees starter Chien-Ming Wang up for consideration to rejoin the big club soon. Hughes struggled in his outing against the Twins on Friday, allowing three runs in five innings but wound up with a no-decision.

BAL: RHP Jeremy Guthrie (3-3, 5.21 ERA)
Guthrie labored through five innings in his last start, but picked up a victory over Kansas City thanks to a big assist from the offense and the bullpen. Guthrie equaled a season low with just two strikeouts and wound up allowing six hits and four earned runs. Although he was the first to say it wasn't one of his sharper nights, Guthrie made a big pitch to get Mike Jacobs ending the fifth, thus preserving a one-run Baltimore lead.

The Yankees were "encouraged" by Wang's bullpen session Tuesday, showing more life on his sinker, and will discuss what the next move for him will be. ... Yankees outfielder Xavier Nady will increase his batting practice to "a little more intense" level than the current tee work and soft-toss, and continues to hope he can avoid Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery and rejoin the active roster sometime in June. ... Girardi said there is no update on left-hander Damaso Marte, who is sidelined with tendinitis in his pitching shoulder. Marte was originally injured while lifting weights during the World Baseball Classic in March and is performing strengthening exercises. ... New York's seven-game winning streak is its longest since Sept. 17-24, 2008. ... The Yankees have a Major League-leading 16 come-from-behind victories. ... New York is a big league-best 19-4 (.826) in games where it does not commit an error.

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Up next
• Thursday: Yankees (Joba Chamberlain, 2-1, 3.76) vs. Orioles (Adam Eaton, 2-4, 7.93), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Friday: Yankees (A.J. Burnett, 2-1, 5.02) vs. Phillies (Brett Myers, 3-2, 4.50), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Yankees (Andy Pettitte, 4-1, 4.18) vs. Phillies (J.A. Happ, 2-0, 2.49), 4:10 p.m. ET

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.