Cervelli on catching: 'Motivation is the mask'

Catcher disputes report that he's finished behind the plate, wants to return in familiar role

July 13th, 2019

CHICAGO -- Pirates catcher wants to make one thing perfectly clear: At 33, he is excited to return to the field, and he wants to remain behind the plate.

But perhaps most importantly, for the first time in his career, he is putting his health and his family ahead of baseball.

Less than a week after a Pittsburgh media outlet reported that Cervelli said he was done catching after sustaining his sixth concussion, Cervelli said before Saturday’s game against the Cubs that he never said anything of the sort.

Early Friday evening, Cervelli posted a photo of himself in catching gear on his Instagram feed with a message calling last weekend’s report on DKPittsburghSports.com inaccurate. On Saturday, he said he posted what he did on social media to clear up speculation that he didn’t plan to catch again.

Cervelli said Saturday that he has begun working with a new doctor, Dr. Michael "Micky" Collins, who specializes in sports concussions in Pittsburgh. Despite the difficulty of his current workouts and therapy sessions, he is motivated to start catching again when he is able.

“The most important thing here is to feel normal as a human being,” Cervelli said. “I haven’t been feeling normal in a long time -- I probably don’t know what’s normal. I’m not saying I feel bad ... I can be better than this.

He added: “I see my family suffering for this thing and people around me who love me they suffer a lot because they see me every day the way I wake up and the way I behave myself -- it’s not normal. So, I’m going to do this to improve and have a quality life with them. That’s the most important thing.”

Cervelli hasn’t played since May 25, when he sustained a concussion after being hit in the chin by a broken bat against the Dodgers. Since then, he has been working at multiple positions in case a change in position was needed. Cervelli worked out in right field Saturday morning but afterward insisted he is intent on returning to the field as a catcher.

“I don’t know how long it’s going to take, but when everything goes well, I’m going to do what I like,” Cervelli said. “… I want to play and I’m hoping to catch.”

Before Cervelli spoke with reporters, manager Clint Hurdle said that Cervelli had not informed him or team officials that he is done catching. On Friday, Hurdle said that whether or not Cervelli catches is up to the veteran but that nothing was definitive. Hurdle had a conversation with Cervelli on Saturday that he said indicated that he is indeed not done catching. Hurdle said he was made aware of Cervelli’s social media post by team director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk on Saturday.

“What I believe he shared [on Instagram] last evening is very accurate and it backs up the conversation I had with him earlier and the comments I shared with you yesterday,” Hurdle said.

Cervelli said everyone, including Hurdle and general manager Neal Huntington is on the same page. Cervelli, who is hitting .193 in 34 games this season, said he wants to contribute to the team but that everything has to be in line before he feels like he is ready to do that. For now, his focus remains on his health.

“It’s easier just to throw in the towel and say, ‘Let me rest and one day, I’ll be good,’” Cervelli said. “No, I want to work [on] this thing, I want to face it and I want to fight against it, because it’s been with me for a long, long, long time. It doesn’t belong in my body or in my brain and so it’s going to go out.

“But the motivation is the mask and the catching gear. That’s the motivation because there’s nothing more than I love more than catching. That’s the truth.”