Catchy new spot for Cervelli: Second base

Francisco Cervelli of the New York Yankees celebrates Francisco Cervelli of the New York Yankees celebrates his sixth inning RBI base hit against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. (June 8, 2011) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

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It didn't take long for Francisco Cervelli to playfully put Robinson Cano on notice.

After spending two innings at second base Sunday, the Yankees' backup catcher couldn't help but point out that he's adept at playing Cano's position, too.

"Now I can say I've played second base in the big leagues for the Yankees," Cervelli said with a smile after their 4-2 victory over the Orioles.

Cervelli started the game on the bench but pinch hit for Derek Jeter (bruised right middle finger) in the fourth, an inning after Jeter was hit by a pitch. After the Yankees scored four runs in the fourth on Brett Gardner's three-run triple and Curtis Granderson's RBI groundout, Girardi called on Cervelli again.

Instinctively, he grabbed his shin guards. But the manager had other plans. "He said, 'You're going to play second base,' " Cervelli said. "I was surprised. But you just do it."

For the first time in his career, he trotted up the dugout steps toward second base. Before Sunday, Cervelli had played only five innings at third base for the Yankees (recording one putout) and had never played the infield in the minor leagues. But he was happy to tackle his latest challenge.

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With one out in the sixth, he cleanly fielded Chris Davis' grounder and threw to shortstop Eduardo Nuñez to force out Vladimir Guerrero at second. Cervelli said he was thinking double play the whole time but said his low throw to Nuñez could have been better. "Gotta throw next time in the chest," he said with a laugh.

But Cervelli's afternoon in the infield was short-lived. Cano, who began the game as the designated hitter, replaced him to start the seventh.

Had Girardi put Cano at second for the fifth, he would have lost the DH for the game's duration and starting pitcher Freddy Garcia would have had to bat in Jeter's second spot in the lineup.

And with a taxed bullpen after Saturday's doubleheader, Girardi was hoping to get seven innings from Garcia and didn't want to be forced into a situation in which he'd feel compelled to lift him for a pinch hitter.

"Could have went a couple different ways in that situation," Girardi said. "When Gardy tripled, that was what I decided to do. We talked about a couple of different scenarios, but I really didn't want to lose that DH."

Once Garcia exited the game after the sixth, Girardi felt more comfortable giving up the DH spot. With Mariano Rivera warming up to pitch the ninth, he had Andruw Jones pinch hit for reliever David Robertson in the eighth.

As for Cervelli, he said he wasn't apprehensive about being at a new position. The angles are different at second base compared with the other infield positions, he said. But overall, he was pleased with his brief stint as a second baseman.

"It was good," he said. "I think I'm the extra backup here, so I catch ground balls every day. So I just had to make it simple."

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