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Primed to be backup, Cervelli a 'plus' for Yanks

Primed to be backup, Cervelli a 'plus' for Yanks play video for Primed to be backup, Cervelli a 'plus' for Yanks

TAMPA, Fla. -- Francisco Cervelli just has to make it to the plane. By optioning Austin Romine to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Wednesday, the Yankees have essentially confirmed that Cervelli will be their backup catcher this season.

Cervelli has enjoyed a terrific spring, entering play on Wednesday batting .455 (15-for-33) with a team-leading four homers, but he has been fooled before. In 2012, Cervelli seemed to be a roster lock before the Yankees made a last-minute trade to acquire Chris Stewart from the Giants.

"If I get my locker in Houston, I'll be happy," Cervelli said.

Cervelli's name has popped up in recent trade rumors -- the Rangers could be one suitor, having lost Geovany Soto for at least 10 weeks to a torn meniscus -- but Girardi said Cervelli adds experience and depth behind the plate for the Yankees.

"I think Cervy can be an everyday catcher, I do," Girardi said. "When it comes to catching, we have a ton in our organization. I mean, there's kids that we sent down that I believe are Major League catchers right now. And it's a real plus for us."

Girardi said that he does not envision making Cervelli anyone's personal catcher; rather, the skipper said, the Yankees will play Brian McCann as often as possible, using Cervelli to spell McCann twice out of every eight or nine days.

"He's been around here," Girardi said. "He's pretty familiar with most of the guys. I'll just put him in when I feel the day is right."

Cervelli said that he has been pleased with his spring. He has been catching all of the Yanks' starters, even toying with learning Japanese so he can communicate with Hiroki Kuroda and Masahiro Tanaka, and he said that last year's troubled season helped him mature.

"Everything that happened last year -- injury, suspension -- I had a lot of time to think, sit down and think about what I have to change, what I have to improve, and how I can manage my life," Cervelli said.

Cervelli was being thought of as the Yankees' regular catcher last season, but wound up playing in just 17 games. He fractured his right hand on a foul tip in April, had a setback in his rehab and then was hit with a 50-game suspension stemming from Major League Baseball's investigation into the Biogenesis clinic.

"I think [I wanted to] prove to the fans that ... I'm healthy and last year was an embarrassing moment for me," Cervelli said. "It's a moment I'm going to carry forever. I come here to play baseball, give everything to the Yankees, and also for myself because I never stop the way I work. I always want to be better."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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