Francisco Cervelli making his mark for the Pittsburgh Pirates

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Francisco Cervelli. Francisco Cervelli. Francisco! Cervelli!

The name rolls off the tongue with all the panache and flair of its namesake.

Will Ferrell’s Buddy the Elf got it. “Francisco! That’s fun to say!” And Pirates fans are starting to get it, too.

When the Pirates lost out in the Russell Martin sweepstakes after Martin’s fantastic run in black in gold made him the darling of free agency, it was hard to imagine anyone stepping in behind the plate that could come close to filling his cleats.

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Raw power, business-like work ethic, a tendency towards the dramatic, an uncanny ability to gun down opposing runners, and a sheer physical presence in a city that thrives on such machismo, Martin was, for all intents and purposes, the heartbeat of the team’s resurrection years.

But then he departed for his native Canada and Pirates fans were left wondering who would fill the void. Enter longtime New York Yankee Cervelli.

The Venezuelan backstop had been floundering in the Yankees organization for nearly a decade, struggling to stay healthy and to make his mark – first stuck behind perennial star Jorge Posada and then beleaguered by injury and later, a 50-game suspension for being linked to the Biogenesis Scandal that brought down Alex Rodriguez.

But then Neal Huntingdon, Bob Nutting and the Pirates’ brass took a leap, tossed a very good bullpen guy in Justin Wilson to the Bronx Bombers, and Cervelli headed to the Burgh and seemingly hasn’t looked back.

While his offensive output has been meager and he hasn’t yet gunned down would-be base-stealers quite like his predecessor, Cervelli brings other intangibles to the 2015 version of the Battling Buccos that are helping to make up for other areas of his game.

His pitch framing is beyond exceptional and his blocking and defense behind the dish is top notch.

Raw power, business-like work ethic, a tendency towards the dramatic, an uncanny ability to gun down opposing runners, and a sheer physical presence in a city that thrives on such machismo, Martin was, for all intents and purposes, the heartbeat of the team’s resurrection years.

Offensively, if nothing else to this point, he has proven a fairly timely hitter and is far from an easy out when stepping into the batter’s box. He makes opposing pitchers work. He is a career .279 hitter so there is potential he can be, at the very least, a solid offensive producer.

But above all, Cervelli is the rally guy. There really is no other way to classify it. The man exemplifies what a teammate should be. He celebrates strikeouts more than any catcher I can remember. He celebrates saves like every game is game seven of the World Series. He smiles. He chatters. He babbles to his teammates. He babbles to the opponents. To the umpires. To himself. To the ground. To anyone within earshot.

When Miguel Cabrera and the Detroit Tigers rolled into town and Cabrera took a swat at the baseball in Cervelli’s hand following a strikeout, the replaying video of his discussions in the dugout with pitcher A.J. Burnett, with other Pirates, with Cabrera, with anyone in earshot was television gold.

Cervelli has a passion for the game. So regardless if he ends up hitting .240 and is a middling statistical catcher, his battle level – to steal a catch phrase from hockey – is always where it needs to be.

And Pirates fans are beginning to take notice. His enthusiasm is infectious and baseball is infectious in this town. So while Gerrit Cole and the starters are helping out an offense still trying to find its rhythm, don’t forget about the man calling the shots from behind the plate.

Because, as we know … Francisco Cervelli! That is fun to say! And, more importantly, fun to watch.

Next: Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates face Cardinals for first time in '15

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