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Cervelli ready to lead new-look Pirates ahead

Catcher started offseason program early; Nova arrives 10 pounds lighter; Nava focused on first impression
MLB.com @adamdberry

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Francisco Cervelli felt the same initial sadness most of Pittsburgh experienced after seeing Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole traded last month. Cervelli called McCutchen "the king of Pittsburgh" and said Cole had the "best arm I've ever seen in my life."

McCutchen is now a Giant and Cole is an Astro, but Cervelli remains a Pirate. On Tuesday morning, Cervelli found the middle ground between lamenting the loss of two franchise cornerstones and still being optimistic about Pittsburgh's immediate future.

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Francisco Cervelli felt the same initial sadness most of Pittsburgh experienced after seeing Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole traded last month. Cervelli called McCutchen "the king of Pittsburgh" and said Cole had the "best arm I've ever seen in my life."

McCutchen is now a Giant and Cole is an Astro, but Cervelli remains a Pirate. On Tuesday morning, Cervelli found the middle ground between lamenting the loss of two franchise cornerstones and still being optimistic about Pittsburgh's immediate future.

• Spring Training info | Schedule | Tickets

"We've got people who can do an amazing job. The young guys, they're going to be superstars soon. We got other players from other teams," Cervelli said. "Best of luck to those guys. They're still family to us. But we've got to move forward."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

The Pirates will do so in a more competitive manner if Cervelli, now their highest-paid player, is behind the plate more often than he was the last two years. Over the last three years, Cervelli's games played total has dropped from a career-high 130 to 101 to 81 due to various injuries.

Last season, Cervelli -- who will turn 32 on March 6 -- missed time due to a concussion, left wrist/hand inflammation and a strained left quad. He sat out all of September, so he decided to start his offseason program in October, earlier than usual. He prioritized flexibility and mobility over pure strength training.

"First of all, my work was focusing on prevention of injuries. I tried to fix all the problems," Cervelli said. "At 31 years old, they already call me 'veteran,' so I have to show that 31 is still young. … I feel good and ready to go."

Super, slimmer Nova: Right-hander Ivan Nova reported to Spring Training about 10 pounds lighter than last season. He said the decision to drop some weight was caused by the left knee injury he pitched through last season.

"This is my job. I've got to protect it," Nova said. "You do everything you can to be in the best shape."

Video: Nova loses weight to help heal from knee injury

Nova sustained the injury on May 20 and exited his June 6 outing early due to left knee inflammation, which at times prevented him from running or working out last season. But it never caused him to miss a start, and he wouldn't blame his second-half slide -- a 5.58 ERA after July 1 -- on his health.

Nova acknowledged that fatigue could have been an issue, but he felt his struggles were due mostly to pitch execution, not the mechanics of his delivery. Last season was the first time Nova, 31, went wire-to-wire as a starter in the Majors.

"That's one of the reasons that I did the preparation that I did this offseason. It was my first time going through a full year in the rotation," he said. "I can finally say now that I know what it takes to be able to make 30-plus starts. That's what you learn from."

That learning experience will also benefit the Pirates' young starters, Nova said. He spoke highly of Jameson Taillon, Chad Kuhl and Trevor Williams, who should join Nova and Joe Musgrove in the Opening Day rotation.

• Projecting Pirates' Opening Day roster

"I believe in every guy in the rotation, to be honest," Nova said. "Gerrit's a tremendous starting pitcher. But we've got guys that are getting another year of experience and are for sure going to help us out."

First day: Outfielder Daniel Nava, who signed a Minor League contract late last week, reported to Pirate City on Tuesday morning. He said he was intrigued by the Pirates' level of interest -- they reached out early in the offseason -- and the opportunity for playing time.

Video: Nava discusses why he chose to sign with the Pirates

Nava will turn 35 on Feb. 22, making him the oldest player in Pirates camp. He is expected to be Pittsburgh's fourth outfielder, if he makes the Opening Day roster.

"I'm coming in trying to [make] a good first impression," Nava said. "From the perspective of contributing to what this team has going with a young core, just helping that further itself along and putting this team in a position to win."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Francisco Cervelli, Daniel Nava, Ivan Nova