Clint Hurdle: Francisco Cervelli an option to play first base to keep his bat in Pirates lineup
When Francisco Cervelli took grounders at first base earlier this week , it wasn’t just for fun.
The Pirates’ oft-injured starting catcher is an option to play the position as a means of keeping his productive bat as part of the offense, manager Clint Hurdle said Thursday.
“To get him a chance to stay in the lineup and not have to catch five, six days a week to stay in the lineup,” Hurdle said. “(The Giants’) Buster Posey has been the perfect model for this. To keep a productive bat in the lineup, frees up your second catcher to catching: (Elias) Diaz in our case (if) Cervelli can play some first, is how it could work out. So it’s definitely something we are trying to use moving forward with him.”
Cervelli and Diaz are why the Pirates lead MLB in OPS from their catchers (.852) by a wide margin (the runner-up Yankees are at .806, the No. 3 Cubs .762). Cervelli has a career-high nine home runs, his .382 on-base percentage leads the majors among catchers and his .838 OPS is second.
Diaz, for his part, has some of the best numbers for a backup catcher in MLB: seven home runs, .290 average, .830 OPS.
The Pirates, conversely, have gotten the least production out of first base in the National League: .664 OPS and six home runs.
Arguably the biggest name catcher in the majors over the past decade, Posey has played roughly a fifth of his MLB games at first base (222 as opposed to 862 catching).
Pirates starting first baseman Josh Bell has a .251 average and .707 OPS.
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris at email@example.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.