3/12/2014 6:40 P.M. ET
Cervelli aiming to make most of current opportunity
By Paul Hagen / MLB.com
TAMPA, Fla. -- Francisco Cervelli knows how quickly things can change in baseball.
Two years ago, the catcher appeared to be on his way to making the Opening Day roster. Then the Yankees traded for veteran Chris Stewart. Cervelli opened the season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and wasn't called up until September. Last year, he started out splitting time with Stewart and was off to a good start before suffering a fractured right hand when struck by a foul tip on April 26. Over the winter, the Yankees gave free-agent catcher Brian McCann a five-year, $85 million contract.
Cervelli hit two home runs to center field at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Wednesday's 7-7 Grapefruit League tie against the Tigers. For the spring, he's batting .500 (8-for-16) with three homers, four RBIs and six runs scored.
"I think I'm going to sleep well tonight," he said with a laugh.
But Cervelli is 28 years old, and he isn't sure what the future holds for him. "I don't know. I'm just going to do what they ask me to do and help the pitchers. Play my role. That's it," he said.
Manager Joe Girardi, a former catcher, said Cervelli has the ability to be a regular receiver somewhere.
"I definitely think he's become a much better player," Girardi said. "Defensively. Offensively. He's matured. He's played a lot more baseball."
As long as McCann is healthy, though, that opportunity won't present itself with the Yankees. Cervelli shook his head when asked if he thinks about being traded or would like to go somewhere he can start.
"I don't know. I've been here forever. I don't have that answer, because I feel right now like this is my house," he said. "But if somebody wants me to go over there, I've got to make the adjustment, you know? I've said many times my dream is to be a starting catcher. Right now my role is a backup. That's what I'm playing for.
"That's something I can't control. I'm here. I don't know what will happen tomorrow, but I come here, I hit, I catch, I do whatever they say."
Girardi experiments with new replay system
TAMPA, Fla. -- Major League Baseball's expanded replay rules were in effect Wednesday at George M. Steinbrenner Field. It was the third test game in which the Yankees have been involved, but the first time manager Joe Girardi has challenged a call.
The instance came with one out in the bottom of the seventh of what ended up as a 7-7 Grapefruit League tie with the Tigers. Yankees second baseman Brian Roberts hit a grounder to second baseman Devon Travis and was called out on a close play. He came out and asked for a review, which upheld the call.
"I thought he was out, but I wasn't sure," Girardi said. "And I didn't want to wait for our [video] guy to get back to me because it was the seventh inning. I thought he was out, but I wasn't 100 percent sure. So I ran out there. Because after that, for the most part, the belief is that if there's a questionable call after the sixth, they're going to review it."
Girardi added that it's unlikely he would have challenged that call in the regular season.
"Probably not. But really, in a sense, I have nothing to lose if I still have my challenge and we're through six innings. You can't store it. It's not vacation days," he said.
Girardi said that, overall, he thinks the system worked "great" and joked that it could keep him from being fined for being ejected while arguing calls.
"It will save me some money," he said.
Girardi does believe that the new rule intended to eliminate home-plate collisions still has some wrinkles that need to be addressed.
"There's still some stuff to be cleared up there," he said. "There are still some little things. The question for me is what's considered blocking home plate. It still has not been completely ironed out, so that's what we're kind of waiting for. I feel like it's a process that everyone's trying to go through. And the best thing that can happen is that you have as many plays as possible. Challenges, plays at the plate that do get challenged or at least thought about. You don't want it to be the first time it comes up during the season."
• The Yankees, who are making a two-game trip to Panama to play the Marlins, will depart after Thursday's game against the Orioles at George M. Steinbrenner Field. CC Sabathia and Adam Warren will be the starting pitchers in the Legends Series, with Derek Jeter, Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran and Alfonso Soriano a part of the traveling party.
It will be the first Major League games played in Panama since 1947.
• Girardi said the competition among the extra men -- including Yangervis Solarte, Dean Anna and Eduardo Nunez -- has been fierce.
"Our utility guys have played really, really good. Tremendous. All of them. The dust isn't settling. The wind is blowing harder. Competition is great. I love it," he said.
Anna was unavailable Wednesday with a stiff neck.
• The Yankees committed three errors in the first four innings on Wednesday, including two charged to third baseman Kelly Johnson, but none resulted in runs.
• The Yankees will continue to be cautious with infielder Brendan Ryan, who has been bothered by lower back inflammation.
"We've been very careful, so why stop? They keep telling me to be patient. It's just something we're being very careful with since it's a back thing," Ryan said.
Girardi's prediction on Ryan's return: "I think we'll have a player next week."
• Prior to Wednesday's game, left-hander Nik Turley and outfielder Slade Heathcott were optioned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and catcher Gary Sanchez was optioned to Double-A Trenton.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.