Injuries add up, but Pirates’ Francisco Cervelli insists: ‘I’m a catcher’ | TribLIVE.com
Pirates/MLB

Injuries add up, but Pirates’ Francisco Cervelli insists: ‘I’m a catcher’

Jerry DiPaola
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli is tended to by head trainer Bryan Housand after being struck by a ball during a game against the Rockies on May 21, 2019 at PNC Park.

Foul balls continue to hit Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli in strange places. But that painful fact and even several concussions in his past haven’t dimmed his enthusiasm for playing the position.

“Last two games, I’m getting hit in places normally a catcher doesn’t get hit,” he said before Friday’s game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. “That hurts. Left side of the chest, just everywhere. A lot of foul balls. But this is the game, or my game.”

Cervelli admits there are positions on the field that are safer than crouching behind home plate. But that doesn’t matter to him.

“You know my opinion. I’m a catcher,” he said. “That’s what I like, and I’m going to continue to be a catcher.”

Cervelli was hit by a foul tip in the upper-chest area Tuesday night, suffering a contusion that eventually forced him from that game. He hasn’t started since then.

“Just a weird spot,” he said. “The good thing is I’m able to stand up and keep going.”

The frustrating part for Cervelli was he was injured in his first game back in the lineup after sitting out the four-game series in San Diego. He sat and watched the games while trying to rediscover the hitting stroke that has eluded him this season. Cervelli’s average has fallen to .185.

“Things have to change. It cannot be all the time the same way,” he said. “It will change. I have time to swing a lot. It’s a thing I’m not used to, swinging so much. But I have to do what I have to do.”

Cervelli said the hitting slump is frustrating. “But it’s more frustrating when I get hit (by foul balls). I can fix the hitting part. But when you get hit in weird (places), that’s more difficult.”

Dickerson on rehab

Already manned by two .300-plus hitters and everyday players Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco, the Pirates outfield soon might get a fifth member.

Corey Dickerson, who won a Gold Glove and hit .300 for the Pirates last year, was scheduled to begin a rehab assignment Friday night for Triple-A Indianapolis in its game at Columbus. Dickerson has been on the injured list since April 4 with a right-shoulder strain. Relief pitcher Keone Kela (shoulder inflammation) is also on a rehab assignment and is scheduled to throw an inning Saturday.

In Dickerson’s absence, rookie Bryan Reynolds and 15-year veteran Melky Cabrera have played the majority of the games in left field. Reynolds is hitting .321 with four home runs and 12 RBIs, and Cabrera is hitting .333 with three homers and 15 RBIs. Plus, Marte and Polanco are playing regularly in center field and right field. Reynolds was in the starting lineup Friday night.

When Dickerson is ready to return to the Pirates, the situation might become one of those “good problems to have” managers reference when they accumulate more players than the starting lineup can handle.

The Pirates (25-22 before Friday) have been playing with 13 pitchers and 12 position players, leaving manager Clint Hurdle with only four pinch-hitters, including the backup catcher who is usually used only in an emergency.

General manager Neal Huntington and Hurdle might choose to flip those numbers — 13 position players, 12 pitchers — to bolster the bench when Dickerson returns. In any case, Hurdle will have a decision to make in left field, but Reynolds appears to have solidified a spot in the lineup.

‘Really smart move’

Hurdle said Dickerson’s decision to go on a rehab assignment “is a really smart move.”

“He hasn’t played in over 50 days,” he said. “We encouraged him to take the time to see pitches, see velocity and spin. Run the bases. The goal being when he comes back, he’s going to be able to do damage.

“Players want to get back in a hurry, then you spend a week trying to figure things out. He’s in his contract year, as well. You think he wants to come back here and take a month to figure it out against big-league pitching when he’s already missed two months? I think he’s thought this through pretty well, what’s best for the team, what’s best for him.”

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Sports | Pirates
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