Early Season Adjustments Lead to Success at the Plate for Cervelli

The Pirates catcher speaks about what has made him one of the teams top hitters.

Noah Hiles
April 28, 2018 - 7:21 pm

© Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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Written by: Noah Hiles

PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) – Health, patience and the ability to adjust. Though those three things are a great way to approach any task in life, they have proven to work especially well this year for Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli. As the first month of the 2018 is nearly in the books, the Pittsburgh backstop has been one of the toughest outs in the Pirates lineup and amongst the top offensive threats in the National League at his position.

Entering Saturday, April 28 Cervelli can be found near or at the top of almost every offensive category for the Pirates, who currently sit just a half game behind the St. Louis Cardinals and the Milwaukee Brewers at the top of the National League Central division. His club leading 18 runs batted in trail only the Dodgers Yasmani Grandal (19) for the most among National League catchers. Cervelli also leads the team in on base percentage (.400), slugging (.542), OPS (.942) and is second in hitting with a .306 batting average.

Though his numbers look great now, that was not always the case. Unlike many of his teammates who started off the season very hot at the plate, Cervelli took about a week longer to get things moving. However, for Cervelli the low numbers he had posted in the first two weeks of 2018 did not match how he was actually seeing and hitting the ball.  

“At the beginning I was hitting the ball hard but just was going in the glove [of the opponent],” said Cervelli. “I try to do the same thing every day; sometimes it happens sometimes it doesn’t. It is as simple as that.”

In the past 13 games, Cervelli is hitting .409 (18-44) with three home runs and 14 runs batted in. Though he attempts to attack every game with the same amount of intensity both in the batters box and behind the plate, he did mention that the rise in his production did not come without making adjustments in nearly all aspects of his game.

“I’ve changed everything,” said Cervelli. “I changed my stance. My swing is still the same but I changed my approach, training, food, everything.”

In 2017, Cervelli hit just .203 in the first month of the season. As someone who plays a position that has a large amount of responsibility toward helping others, it can be difficult at times to get ones individual self in a rhythm early on. When asked about how he went about preparing to divide equal attention between helping the pitchers while also working on his own game to avoid another poor first month at the plate Cervelli said, “This sport is a team game but you have to do well as an individual. You have to really be selfish with yourself and if you do well it’s good for your teammates.”

Cervelli isn’t the only Pirate at his position that is currently hitting the ball well. In 11 games, back up catcher Elias Diaz is hitting .444 with two homeruns and four runs batted in. Though his understudy is following his footsteps with early success, Cervelli says he had nothing to do with Diaz’s strong production at the plate.

“Diaz is very professional and comes early and does what he has to,” said Cervelli. “We share a lot of things catching wise, when we work with the pitchers but everyone big league wise has to take care of their own business at the plate.”

Finally, as one of the few players remaining from the last Pirates team to reach the post season and in 2015, Cervelli is well aware of what it will take for this club to continue to surprise all of baseball and remain near or at the top of the standings. When asked what his overall review of the Pirates first month of the season Cervelli said, “We are good as a group; the energy is amazing. It is fantastic what we have here. We just have to keep having fun and playing hard.”