Tim Benz: It’s not worthwhile for Pirates to find position for Francisco Cervelli | TribLIVE.com
Tim Benz, Columnist

Tim Benz: It’s not worthwhile for Pirates to find position for Francisco Cervelli

Tim Benz
Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli is consoled by hitting coach Rick Eckstein after taking himself out of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the fourth inning in May 25, 2019. Cervelli had been hit in the head by a foul tip in the top of the inning.

After at least six concussions, Francisco Cervelli says he’s done with catching. The Pirates general manager isn’t ruling that scenario out either.

“As we go through with Cervy, we need to be cognizant that there may be a position change at hand,” Neal Huntington said. “We’re continuing to work through the assessment and evaluation process. Obviously, you’ve seen him take a ton of work at third and around the infield. We have to be open to the fact that maybe third base or first base or right field or a bat off the bench, or maybe he becomes a regular at somewhere at each of those.”

Not to be callous, but what’s the point of that? Is this even worth the effort?

After all, the goal of this experiment would be to tap into Cervelli’s bat once his concussion symptoms subside.

But even before he went on the injured list, Cervelli was only hitting .191 with one home run.

It is a worthwhile endeavor for Cervelli. And kudos to him for making the noble effort to try any and all positions outside of catching.

Unfortunately, this seems fruitless for the Pirates. Are they going to turn Cervelli into a capable position player before the trade deadline? Unlikely.

The team already has one guy they are holding onto, in part, out of a sense of loyalty, obligation and financial commitment.

That’s Jung Ho Kang. The presence of Kang clogging up the job of a right-handed bat coming off the bench makes it even harder to justify keeping Cervelli in this experimental role.

At least Kang (.171 batting average) provides power more often when he does connect, and his infield play is more refined.

Also, let’s not forget how well Jose Osuna has performed as a pinch hitter with a .321 batting average and five home runs, four as a pinch hitter.

“My blood, it boils every time I see a game and I am not behind the plate,” Cervelli said. “But what I experienced this year, this is real.”

Unfortunately for Cervelli, so is the Pirates’ infield situation. Unless there is an injury to Kang, Josh Bell or Colin Moran, I don’t see where Cervelli slides into a spot at a corner position.

Even if Clint Hurdle were to try Cervelli at second base, who is he going to displace? Adam Frazier has 18 hits in July. Kevin Newman is hitting .327. Plus, Cervelli would just be another roadblock in the infield rotation for Kevin Kramer and potentially Cole Tucker.

If Cervelli should try the outfield, that’s packed, as well, even before the return of Gregory Polanco.

Cervelli is popular guy and a well-liked teammate. But at this point, it’d be hard to justify him being placed back in as a catcher in front of either Elias Diaz or Jacob Stallings.

Let alone shuffling him into a new position.

The only reason the Pirates should entertain the notion of teaching Cervelli other spots is to make him attractive in a trade package. Maybe “Team X” will work with him this year and sign him after the season is over and his $11.5 million contract expires.

Aside from that — and there’s no nice way to say this — I have no idea what purpose is served by the Pirates trying to teach Cervelli a new position on the fly.

Aside from being good guys … to a good guy.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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