The World Champion New York Yankees welcomed Division rival Blue Jays to George M. Steinbrenner field Saturday afternoon in what turned out to be more of a scare than a disappointment. Satrurday's game marked the Spring Training debut of Yankees number 2 pitcher, A.J. Burnett. As with most pitchers during their first starts, the rust was evident with Burnett who loaded the bases after sitting the first two batters in the 1st inning. After going 1 and 2/3 of an inning, he accounted for 2 of the runs allowed by Yankee pitching in their 9-1 loss to Toronto. However the loss was not the prevalent thought throughout the clubhouse.
Celebrating his 24th birthday, Yankees' backup catcher, Francisco Cervelli took a pitch to the helmet in the bottom of the 3rd inning by Jays pitcher, Zech Zinicola. Former Yankee catcher, now Jays backstop, Jose Molina immediately reached out to offer assistance to his fellow 2009 Champion teammate of last year. Cervelli would rise a minute later and walk to the dugout under his own power to a round of applause from the Yankee faithful. Manager Joe Girardi spoke during an in-game interview concerning Cervelli's health status and reported that Cervelli suffered a concussion and had been sent to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa, FL for a precautionary CT scan. The force of the pitch was evident by the baseball seams left imprinted on Cervelli's helmet. Girardi stated that Cervelli would be granted anywhere from a few days to perhaps 2 weeks of time off or whatever length of time is necessary to ensure Cervelli's health.
After watching the Jays bats break out in the 5th inning, Yankees' General Manager, Brian Cashman also spoke in an interview reporting that the CT scans came back negative and that their main concern was now monitoring Cervelli's helath and days off. This incident is the second of its kind in the last four months for Cervelli who also suffered a concussion when he was struck in precisely the same location by a batter's backswing during a Winter League game in November of 2009. This latest incident represents the organization's greatest concern. Ready to defend their Championship title in 2010, New York had few questions concerning their staff and the biggest concern was the health of the players. With Cervelli out of the equation for the moment, Cashman stated Mike Rivera will be called up as backup catcher to Jorge Posada.
Girardi stated that he would try to work Cervelli back into the lineup, quite possibly as just a DH in coming days so as to keep his rhythm but would not rush a return. The Yankee Training and Health Staff will monitor Cervelli on a day-today basis and evaluate when he will be physically ready to get behind the plate again because so far as Cervelli's mental state is concerned, he is ready now and eagerly awaits putting down the signs again.