Francisco Cervelli out month-plus

TAMPA, Fla. -- New York Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli has a broken left foot and will miss a minimum of four weeks and likely more.

An MRI of Cervelli's foot, injured when he fouled a ball off it while batting in the second inning of Wednesday's game against the Astros, revealed a fracture "above the toes," according to manager Joe Girardi.

Cervelli, who was engaged in a three-way competition for the backup catcher spot with rookies Jesus Montero and Austin Romine, is walking with the aid of crutches and will have his foot immobilized in a boot for a minimum of four weeks. He will then need several weeks of rehab before being able to return to the field, meaning he will probably miss at least the first month of the regular season.

"I feel for him," Girardi said. "He's had a rough go in spring."

In previous camps, Cervelli has suffered a broken wrist and a concussion after being hit in the head with a pitch. At the time of his injury, he was hitting .600 (3-for-5) and had come to camp noticeably more muscular after offseason training with Robinson Cano in the Dominican Republic.

Cervelli's injury means the Yankees are almost certain to begin the regular season with a rookie backing up Russell Martin. Girardi said the plan was still for Jorge Posada to be the everyday designated hitter. Losing Cervelli also means the temperamental A.J. Burnett loses the player who has been his personal catcher for the past two seasons.

"We still have plenty of guys here that can earn that spot," Girardi said. "We have Montero here, we have Romine here, and we brought in [Gustavo] Molina if we felt our kids weren't ready or if we had something happen."

So far this spring, Montero and Romine have each appeared in three games. So far, Romine has hit better -- 2-for-4 as opposed to 1-for-8 for Montero -- but Montero, whose defense was suspect coming into camp, has impressed Girardi and his staff with his improvement behind the plate. Montero threw out two baserunners in Tuesday's game against the Pirates at Bradenton, and Girardi has mentioned that the 6-foot-4, 230-pounder seems more comfortable behind the plate.

And Montero has a full season at Triple A under his belt -- he hit .289 with 21 homers and 75 RBI for Scranton-Wilkes Barre last season -- while Romine has never played higher than Double A.

"We've got two kids who we believe are very talented," Girardi said. "When you look at Montero and Romine, the one thing they're lacking is the big-league experience, but they're not lacking in talent."

But the manager admitted losing Cervelli robbed the Yankees of an asset at a vital position. "Well, we knew [Cervelli] can do that job," Girardi said. "The other guys, we're not sure of. We're not sure, if it's one of the kids, how they're going to handle it. But we might find out."

Wallace Mattews covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com.