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Cervelli pays quick dividends in Braves debut

Former Pirate goes 3-for-5 with 3 RBIs after joining team on Saturday
@mlbbowman
August 25, 2019

NEW YORK -- A little more than a month after wondering if his career, or at least his days as a catcher were complete, Francisco Cervelli has found a new home with the Braves, who benefited from the immediate contributions he made in Saturday night’s 9-5 win over the Mets

NEW YORK -- A little more than a month after wondering if his career, or at least his days as a catcher were complete, Francisco Cervelli has found a new home with the Braves, who benefited from the immediate contributions he made in Saturday night’s 9-5 win over the Mets at Citi Field.

“I was playing like a kid,” Cervelli said. “That’s all that matters. From now on, I’ll just enjoy every game and every opportunity and do what I have to do.”

A few hours after signing his contract, introducing himself to his new teammates and familiarizing himself with the pitchers he’ll now handle, Cervelli highlighted a three-hit performance with a pair of doubles, including one that plated the game’s first two runs in the second.

“I think he’s excited to be here and it showed,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.

After the Pirates released Cervelli on Thursday to give him an opportunity to finish the season with a contender, the Braves addressed their need to strengthen their catching depth.

Cervelli will share the catching duties with Tyler Flowers until Brian McCann is activated from the injured list within the next couple of weeks.

“I feel like a lucky man,” Cervelli said.

Along with being happy with this opportunity to join a first-place team, Cervelli feels fortunate to have this chance to resume his role as a Major League catcher. The 33-year-old veteran hasn’t played in the big leagues since May 25, when he suffered the latest of the multiple concussions he’s sustained throughout his career.

Two months ago, Cervelli was apprehensive about possibly getting back behind the plate again. But his mindset has changed since he began new therapy and found a new lease on his baseball life. His concerns steadily evaporated as he played six Minor League games this month without feeling any lingering post-concussion symptoms.

“I was working at other positions and working very hard, but it’s boring for me,” Cervelli said. “I’m not a baseball player. I’m a catcher. I’ve been doing it for 17 years and that’s what I’m going to do.”

Because Cervelli was not claimed after being placed on waivers on Thursday, the Braves will only have to pay the pro-rated portion of the Major League minimum salary ($555,000) for as long as he remains on Atlanta’s roster. This would equate to approximately $119,000 over the remainder of the season.

The Braves are hoping Cervelli can provide the same kind of value they have received from shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, who has contributed solid defense and some timely hits since being released by the Mets last week.

“[Cervelli] is a guy I’ve liked for a while,” Snitker said. “He’s a guy that can bring energy and he’s got skills. He’s a good little catcher. In [McCann’s] absence, he’s going to be a good pairing with Tyler.”

Along with accounting for the likelihood McCann may not return before the latter part of September’s first week, the signing of Cervelli prevents the Braves from going down the stretch looking at the possibility of Alex Jackson and John Ryan Murphy as their only insurance behind the plate. Murphy is a good defensive catcher who does not bring much offensively.

Jackson was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett to create a roster spot for Cervelli. He has hit 25 homers for Gwinnett this year. But his 39.3 percent strikeout rate has extended doubts about his ability to hit at the Major League level.

Cervelli hit .193 and produced a .526 OPS while playing just 34 games for the Pirates this year. But he is a highly regarded leader who can still provide significant value defensively.

“My only mission here is to win,” Cervelli said. “I’m wired that way.”

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.