Joe Girardi will never come out and say it -- and believe me, I gave him every opportunity to at this afternoon's pregame news conference -- but it is obvious that Francisco Cervelli is now the Yankees' No. 1 catcher, or at least the closest thing they will have to a No. 1 this season.
Cervelli has started eight of the Yankees' first 12 games behind the plate, and with CC Sabathia on the mound, will start Wednesday against the Diamondbacks. Chris Stewart, who was probably the spring-training favorite to win the job, essentially only works when Ivan Nova or Hiroki Kuroda pitch.
It is an incredible turnaround for Cervelli, who a year ago was a discouraged member of the then-named Empire State Yankees, having been blindsided by his demotion on the last day of training camp when the Yankees acquired Stewart from the Giants in a trade.
For that reason, Cervelli was a bit taken aback when a group of reporters approached his locker before the game. "What'd I do?" he asked.
Told that Girardi had singled him out in his interview session for his surprising early-season hitting -- he is batting .360, his on-base percentage is .500 and he has six RBIs, behind only Robinson Cano, Travis Hafner and Kevin Youkilis -- Cervelli relaxed.
"It's amazing, huh?" he said. "Sometimes I go to bed and I go back and see myself where I was last year, as a second-rater, you know, but what they say, God always has different plan for you. Sometimes we don’t understand the plan, in the moment but right now I understand what he got for me."
Girardi said he's been impressed by Cervelli's patience in waiting for the right pitches to hit, and his aggressiveness when he gets them. "I saw that in spring training," Girardi said. "We had a lot of opportunities to watch him play, and he hit the ball extremely well there. And his at-bats here have just been really, really good."
But when asked if Cervelli is officially his No. 1 catcher, the manager hedged. "Cervy has caught a good portion of the games," he said. "He's not the every-day, no, but if you catch three out of five, four out of five, in certain rotations that's an every-day guy. I have given him more than what we originally did. If he continues to shine, he'll continue to get more."
Cervelli attributed his improvement at the plate to playing winter ball in Venezuela.
"That's a tough league, because you see a starting pitcher for maybe one at-bat or two at-bats and then the rest of the game you gonna see relievers," he said. "You don’t know, you don’t have reports, you have to make your own adjustments and everything. That taught me a lot."
So did his bitter experience last spring, when he expected to serve as Russell Martin's backup, only to have the rug yanked out from under him at the last moment.
"Last year helped me to lower my expectations for things," he said. "Now I got low expectations with some things but I'm always positive. I worked hard and came here and got my opportunity. For the 10 years I been playing my dream was to be a starting catcher somewhere."
Now he is the starting catcher for the New York Yankees, even if his manager can't quite bring himself to say it.
QUESTION: Are you satisfied with Cervelli as the every-day catcher this season?