Posted on August 24, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine

Francisco Cervelli
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The Atlanta Braves sit atop the AL East standings despite a recent rash of injuries. However, they have found a way to replace one of their injured players for the time being. On Saturday, the Braves announced the signing of catcher Francisco Cervelli. He will help make up for the absence of Brian McCann, who went on the Injured List earlier this week. Cervelli was added to Atlanta’s roster prior to Saturday’s game against the Mets with Alex Jackson being optioned to the minors.

It’s been an unusual season for the 33-year-old Cervelli. He hasn’t played in the majors since the end of May when he was placed on the IL due to concussion symptoms. He had multiple stints on the IL due to concussions last season and at one point said that his days of catching were over because of concern over multiple concussions. But he changed his mind and played six rehab games in the minors earlier this month.

With the Pirates out of the playoff race and wanting to give their younger catchers playing time, they put Cervelli on waivers on Thursday. After clearing, he was free to sign with any team. The Braves showed interest and quickly moved to sign him with McCann expected to miss at least a couple of weeks. Cervelli is now expected to share time with Tyler Flowers, at least until McCann is ready to return.

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“[The Braves] needed a catcher. I was on the market. I got lucky just to be here,” explains Cervelli. “I was a free agent, and I wasn’t in the big-picture plan for [Pirates] management. Then everything happened.”

Prior to going on the IL in May, Cervelli was hitting just .193 with an OPS of .526. However, he’s coming off a solid offensive season in 2018 in which he hit .259 with an OPS of .809, which was helped along by a career-high 12 home runs. Cervelli was also raking during his rehab assignment in the minors, going 8 for 19 with three extra-base hits.

It remains to be seen whether the Braves intend to use Cervelli as the backup to Flowers or whether the two will split time like Flowers has done with McCann this year. But if Cervelli can continue to hit the way he did during his rehab assignment, he’ll have a chance to earn more playing time. Flowers has been in a season-long slump, and with Nick Markakis and Dansby Swanson also on the IL, the Braves will take more offense anywhere they can get it.

Even with no idea of what they’ll get from Cervelli, this was a nice pickup for the Braves. Cervelli is an experienced catcher who will surely help down the stretch, and possibly in the playoffs. If and when McCann returns, he will likely be preferred to Cervelli and Flowers most days. But with Cervelli in the picture, the Braves can feel good about their depth at catcher heading down the stretch run. It’s a minor move, but one that could pay off in an important way.

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