3/26/2014 4:44 P.M. ET
Primed to be backup, Cervelli a 'plus' for Yanks
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
TAMPA, Fla. -- Francisco Cervelli just has to make it to the plane. By optioning Austin Romine to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Wednesday, the Yankees have essentially confirmed that Cervelli will be their backup catcher this season.
Cervelli has enjoyed a terrific spring, entering play on Wednesday batting .455 (15-for-33) with a team-leading four homers, but he has been fooled before. In 2012, Cervelli seemed to be a roster lock before the Yankees made a last-minute trade to acquire Chris Stewart from the Giants.
"If I get my locker in Houston, I'll be happy," Cervelli said.
Cervelli's name has popped up in recent trade rumors -- the Rangers could be one suitor, having lost Geovany Soto for at least 10 weeks to a torn meniscus -- but Girardi said Cervelli adds experience and depth behind the plate for the Yankees.
"I think Cervy can be an everyday catcher, I do," Girardi said. "When it comes to catching, we have a ton in our organization. I mean, there's kids that we sent down that I believe are Major League catchers right now. And it's a real plus for us."
Girardi said that he does not envision making Cervelli anyone's personal catcher; rather, the skipper said, the Yankees will play Brian McCann as often as possible, using Cervelli to spell McCann twice out of every eight or nine days.
"He's been around here," Girardi said. "He's pretty familiar with most of the guys. I'll just put him in when I feel the day is right."
Cervelli said that he has been pleased with his spring. He has been catching all of the Yanks' starters, even toying with learning Japanese so he can communicate with Hiroki Kuroda and Masahiro Tanaka, and he said that last year's troubled season helped him mature.
"Everything that happened last year -- injury, suspension -- I had a lot of time to think, sit down and think about what I have to change, what I have to improve, and how I can manage my life," Cervelli said.
Cervelli was being thought of as the Yankees' regular catcher last season, but wound up playing in just 17 games. He fractured his right hand on a foul tip in April, had a setback in his rehab and then was hit with a 50-game suspension stemming from Major League Baseball's investigation into the Biogenesis clinic.
"I think [I wanted to] prove to the fans that ... I'm healthy and last year was an embarrassing moment for me," Cervelli said. "It's a moment I'm going to carry forever. I come here to play baseball, give everything to the Yankees, and also for myself because I never stop the way I work. I always want to be better."
Jeter just beginning to shed rust from lost season
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The hits may not have been falling very often for Derek Jeter this spring, but with Opening Day right around the corner, the Yankees' captain believes he is clicking into form at just the right time.
Jeter went 1-for-2 with a walk and two runs in the Yankees' 10-6 loss to the Blue Jays on Wednesday, raising his spring average to .143 (7-for-49). He has said that it was taking longer than expected to knock rust off after being limited to 17 games last season.
"That's the goal, to get ready for Opening Day," Jeter said. "Sometimes you have to use more of the spring than others to get ready, but I feel good where I am right now. We have a couple more games left and then we'll start the year, so I'm happy with where I am."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that he sees Jeter's timing improving every day. Jeter played back-to-back games at shortstop for the first time this spring on Tuesday and Wednesday; he is scheduled to have Thursday off, then will play on Saturday and Sunday.
"The big thing for me is he's healthy," Girardi said. "He's responding day after day, coming back, playing four out of five days. I think he's starting to swing the bat a little bit better. He's starting to get the ball in the air, line drives.
"I don't worry too much about Spring Training for veteran guys, especially a guy who really hasn't played in a year and a half. I don't worry about it. We've talked about his timing. He feels it's better and better. I think it will continue to improve and he'll be fine."
Jeter said that he has been on a normal spring schedule since camp started in February, but it has taken slightly longer to get in the rhythm of playing games. Jeter said that he finally started to feel comfortable a few days ago.
"For me, every spring it's pretty much the same thing," Jeter said. "This year may have taken a little bit longer, but first you want to make sure you're seeing the ball. Then it's you want to make sure you're swinging at good pitches, then it's contact.
"Driving balls in the air is usually the last thing that comes. It's usually been like that every spring. This year, maybe it's taken a little bit longer than other ones, but I think that's understandable considering I haven't played in quite some time."
Girardi said that he does not have any issues with Jeter's defensive play to date.
"He's consistent out there," Girardi said. "It's really nice to see him move without having to force it, like what we had to watch all last year. It was hard for everybody to watch, because it's not something that we were accustomed to.
"But he's went to his right, he's went to his left, he's come in. I don't remember a ball really going back, but he's looked pretty good."
Ellsbury plays field in Minor League contest
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Yankees outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury played in his second Minor League game in as many days on Wednesday, playing five innings in center field and reporting no issues.
Ellsbury played in a Class A game against a Pirates' squad at the Himes Complex in Tampa, Fla., going 1-for-4 with a walk. Ellsbury has not played in a Grapefruit League game since March 14 due to a sore right calf.
"I think it went very well," Ellsbury said. "Pleased with the results, pleased with how everything felt, couldn't ask for more. I did a little bit of everything."
Manager Joe Girardi said that it was "comforting" that Ellsbury was able to play the outfield. Ellsbury had only batted on Tuesday because of soggy conditions at the complex.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told reporters that Ellsbury will play in another Minor League game on Thursday, and he could play for the big league squad on Friday against the Marlins at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
"I think he will be ready [for Opening Day], as long as he's feeling good and he's healthy," Cashman said.
Also in that Minor League game, Yankees closer David Robertson allowed a run on two hits in two-thirds of an inning, striking out two.
Claiborne's struggles could factor for Girardi
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Preston Claiborne, who made 44 appearances in the big leagues for the Yankees last season, has had a rough spring and could begin the year with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
The right-hander allowed six earned runs on four hits with a walk and did not record an out in Wednesday's appearance against the Blue Jays, part of Toronto's eight-run fifth inning. Claiborne also hit a batter with a pitch.
"The stuff has not been the same, for whatever reason," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "When we got him up last year he had been on a roll and he was throwing the ball very well. He has not been able to do that this spring, and it's something that we've looked at."
Claiborne, 26, was 0-2 with a 4.11 ERA with New York last season. His spring ERA rose from 4.76 to 14.29 with Wednesday's appearance, and Girardi has said that he was already facing difficult decisions to narrow down his bullpen choices.
David Robertson, Shawn Kelley and Matt Thornton were considered early locks, and Girardi has indicated that David Phelps, Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno will all be looked at to fill relief spots. Dellin Betances also pitched a scoreless inning on Wednesday, lowering his spring ERA to 0.79.
"I think we look at taking our best team when we leave," Girardi said. "In saying that, we have some tough decisions to make over the next three days, and it's really less than that because we leave in three days."
• Alfonso Soriano received treatment after Tuesday's game for a sore right shoulder. Soriano was back in the Yankees' lineup for Wednesday's game against the Blue Jays in Dunedin, Fla., serving as the designated hitter.
"It's something that he's had," Girardi said. "Players have to work through things. He'll get [Thursday] off and then we'll see how he is."
• Girardi said that his choices for backup infielders and relief pitchers will probably go down to the end of camp, and that the organization is still discussing their options.
"We're going to have to make a decision pretty quick here, because they're going to have to pack," Girardi said.