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Pirates notebook: Francisco Cervelli returns to baseball activities

| Friday, June 30, 2017, 4:42 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli works out with head trainer Todd Tomczyk after batting practice before a game against the Giants on Friday, June 30, 2017, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen drives in a run with a base hit during the third inning against the Rays Thursday, June 29, 2017, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli jokes with hitting coach Jeff Branson during batting practice before a game against the Giants Friday, June 30, 2017, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen doubles during the fifth inning against the Rays Thursday, June 29, 2017, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli prepares to take batting practice before a game against the Giants Friday, June 30, 2017, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen signs autographs for young fans before a game against the Giants Friday, June 30, 2017, at PNC Park.

Twenty-four days after suffering a concussion during a game, 23 days since being placed on the disabled list for it and eight days after being placed — again — on the DL for it, Francisco Cervelli returned to regular pregame baseball activities Friday.

"I've just got to build," Cervelli said on the field afterward, "because I don't want to go back tomorrow and then start feeling bad again (so) then I have to stop.

"I just want to get back and stay there for the rest of the season. We will see."

Cervelli has played in only four games since a foul ball off his mask concussed the Pirates catcher June 6 in Baltimore. The first time, he spent the minimum seven days on the DL before coming back. But symptoms such as headaches, dizziness and fever within the first few days of being back were a clear signal a return trip to the DL was wise.

So this time, the rehab process for Cervelli has been more deliberate.

"Probably the last time I didn't take a break, you know, mentally," Cervelli said. "(The first time) I didn't feel (as bad as) I felt last week, so it was a difference. Last week was a lot of rest."

Cervelli said he still is not certain if the symptoms are concussion-related or associated with a virus or with sinus-related issues he's been suffering from this season.

He said although he never has had sinus troubles in the past, this year they've been wreaking havoc on him. The soggy, late-May four-game series in Atlanta was where they came to a head. Cervelli was lifted from some ensuing games as a result.

Friday, though, he left the clubhouse in catcher's gear to catch a bullpen session. Then he did infield drills as part of a cardio workout, and he ran in the outfield under the watchful eye of head trainer Todd Tomczyk. Finally, Cervelli joined Jose Osuna as the final Pirates to take batting practice.

Cervelli termed himself "very close" physically to being able to return. Tomczyk on Wednesday said Cervelli was "truly day to day" and that his recovery will be mapped out after it's seen how Cervelli's body responds to each day of work.

"I have got to keep testing myself, like today," Cervelli said. "Get tired, and then the big thing is the next day to see how you wake up.

"But I think it's going to be fine."

'Greatest blessing' for McCutchen

Andrew McCutchen has had one of the best months of his career. On the final day of June, he let the world in on just how good of a year he's having.

McCutchen posted a video on his verified Twitter account Friday afternoon to announce he and his wife, Maria, are expecting their first child. The 78-second message ends with: "Our greatest blessing yet, December 2, 2017."

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said McCutchen had told him long ago Maria was pregnant.

"I was ecstatic when he told me," Hurdle said.

"It's about relationships, and I had the good fortune and the blessings to be with a number of these men now, watch them come in here single, watch them get married, watch them have kids, watch them raise families."

McCutchen and the former Maria Hanslovan, a Western Pennsylvania native, were married in Pittsburgh in November 2014. McCutchen proposed to her about a year earlier during a taping of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show."

McCutchen leads the NL with a .398 batting average in June. He's in his ninth season with the Pirates.

Another off day for Freese

Hurdle gave David Freese a second consecutive day off Friday as a way to "unplug" the struggling veteran third baseman. Hurdle said he told Freese that he would even be "the last man" he'd ask to pinch hit.

"The worst thing you can do is, 'You're not playing' and then, 'Well, well I might use you late,' " Hurdle said. "So for eight innings, 'Oh yeah, he's unplugged.' He isn't unplugged; he's watching the game, he's thinking about how you are gonna use him."

The Pirates used the same lineup both days: Adam Frazier made his sixth and seventh starts of the season at second base and John Jaso his fifth and sixth in left field.

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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