I believe it was back in August of 2009, that the mainstream media was trying its hardest to blow the rift between AJ Burnett and Jorge Posada way out of proportion. Although the two players both adamantly denied tension or conflict within the clubhouse, the perception was evidently convincing enough that Jose Molina ultimately wound up doing the majority of the catching for Burnett through the remainder of the year. Then in 2010, Cervelli’s name seemingly popped up on the roster each time Burnett was scheduled to pitch. At the time, many of us pondered the effectiveness of such an arrangement.
This year, Yankeeland has been spoiled by some fine defensive work behind the plate, compliments of Russell Martin. More importantly, the pitching staff has evidently built a solid rapport with the former Dodger backstop. Posada, meanwhile, is no longer contributing as a catcher as his responsibilities continue to be reduced. However, as the season continues to progress, Girardi appears to be assigning personal catchers once again. Except this time, CC Sabathia is the benefactor of Cervelli’s catching services.
By my count, Cervelli has been listed as the starting catcher 26 times this season. Of those 26 instances, he’s caught Sabathia 11 times. This represents roughly 42% of Cervelli’s opportunities. Comparatively, he’s caught Colon five times, Nova five times, Hughes one time, Burnett two times, and Garcia two times. Basically, he’s caught Sabathia almost as much as everyone else combined. Of late, Cervelli has caught the big guy in each of his past four outings (and seven of his past eight starts). From June 25th up until yesterday, the only game Cervelli did not catch Sabathia was on July 10th.
Admittedly, some of this is perfectly explainable I believe, through coincidental circumstance of typical season play. Specifically speaking, Phil Hughes missed substantial time on the disabled list which would of course limit the number of opportunities for Frankie. Similarly, Colon was out of action for about a month with a hamstring injury. Additionally, Nova spent some time on the disabled list and then in the minors. It’s reasonable to expect Cervelli to have worked more with Sabathia as he has simply had the most appearances of anyone in the rotation thus far.
Obviously, I’m certainly not Joe Girardi, nor am I privy to all of the details he contemplates when putting together a roster. While I don’t agree with necessarily assigning a catcher – if that is in fact the reality – I do understand (at least to a degree) why he might choose Sabathia as the designated pitcher for such a plan. Unlike in years past when Cervelli was assigned to work with a particular pitcher out of necessity (i.e. conflict between said pitcher and Jorge), this year the entire staff seems to run smoothly with Martin.
Simply put, perhaps the line of thinking is that Cervelli might as well be paired up with the pitcher most likely to mitigate the other team’s offense. With the offensive depth of the Yankees, Cervelli’s lack of production with the bat becomes a little less pronounced when the opposing team isn’t generating a lot of runs. One other possibility of such a relationship could stem from the mere fact that Sabathia is just a very good pitcher who isn’t particularly reliant on a specific catcher.