UNCASVILLE, CONN. --As talks begin to surface about the Yankees possibly trading A.J. Burnett to Pittsburgh, his former personal catcher talked highly of the inconsistent right-handed pitcher.
"I love A.J., man," backup catcher Francisco Cervelli said Friday at the Connecticut Sports Foundation Annual Celebrity Dinner and Memorabilia Auction at Mohegan Sun. "A.J. is one of the best guys on the team and like I said, we don't control that, we just go out there and play baseball and he's part of the Yankees and he's part of the team. Gotta respect every decision."
Cervelli in the past would serve as the personal catcher for the Burnett, as the Yankees would use him to catch Burnett instead of former catcher Jorge Posada. Burnett went 11-11 with a 5.15 ERA last season and ESPN's Jayson Stark reports that the Pirates seem to have legitimate interest in Burnett and the Yankees are targeting outfielder Garrett Jones in return.
Whether or not Burnett is in the rotation next season, Cervelli is confident about the staff. After last year's rotation had question marks entering the year, the Yankees rotation is being touted as one of the best in the game after the additions of Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda.
"It makes the staff real strong," Cervelli said. "Pineda is real great. I think he has a long career. Kuroda everybody knows. He can throw a lot of pitches. I think the pitching staff now is real deep. It's different than we had last year with the expections and everything. It's deep. It's real good."
Cervelli enters the season as the favorite to be the Yankees backup catcher following the trade in the offseason of Jesus Montero, in which the Yankees netted Pineda from Seattle. He said his symptoms following his concussion in September are gone.
"Doctors said work hard and I feel good," Cervelli said.
Cervelli said he was at the beach when he heard the news about Montero, who made an impression in his September call-up last season. That leaves Cervelli as the veteran catcher among those vying for the backup role, which also includes prospect Austin Romine. Cervelli hit .266 with four home runs and 22 RBI last season.
"(I) Felt surprised because he was the No. 1 prospect," Cervelli said. "But we don't make decisions. The try to make the best (move) for the team all the time and if they think that's the right move, it's the right move."