Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli is set to begin a rehab assignment on Sunday afternoon
It has been a tumultuous 2019 season for Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli. Entering the final season of his contract, Cervelli was hoping for a big 2019 season in an effort to get one last big free agent contract. Unfortunately, things have not gone according to plan for the Pirate backstop.
Cervelli played in 34 games this season before continued concussion issues derailed the 33-year-old catcher. In fact, at one point, it was falsely reported by DK Pittsburgh Sports, that Cervelli was going to give up catching due to his battles with concussions. After a long road back, there is finally light at the end of the tunnel for Cervelli.
On Sunday afternoon, Cervelli will begin a rehab assignment with the Double-A Altoona Curve. While Cervelli may play other positions during the rehab stint, he will primarily be catching.
Prior to going on the injured list. Cervelli was have a disappointing season. Coming off a 2018 campaign that was one of his best expectations were high for the Pirate backstop. After slashing .259/.378/.431 in 2018 with a career high ISO of .172 and a 125 wRC+, his on-base percentage of .378 was also a career high, Cervelli slumped to slashing .193/.279/.248 in 2019. His power ahd been non-existent (0.55 ISO) and his wRC+ was just 46. After posting a strong 2.6 fWAR, the third highest of his career, in 2018, Cervelli’s fWAR had dropped to -0.2 this season.
After all of his concussion issues it is great just to see Cervelli back on the field, especially at the position he loves – catcher. Hopefully, the veteran backstop can put together a strong rehab assignment and finish the season on a high note. There is no denying that the Pirates have missed healthy Cervelli this season. Between 2015, Cervelli’s first season in Pittsburgh, and 2018 his 11.8 fWAR ranked 5th among all MLB catchers. This season, Pirate catchers -0.8 fWAR ranks 28th in the Majors. Undoubtedly, this has played a role in the both the team’s struggles and the struggles of the pitching staff.
Odds are that Cervelli will take the full 20 days that are available on his rehab assignment. By doing this, he will not have to be activated off the IL until September 1st. At that point, rosters will expand and the Pirates will not be forced to either carry three catchers or designate Elias Diaz or Jacob Stallings, both of whom are out of minor league options, for assignment.