Francisco Cervelli anxious to return to Yankees' lineup

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi takes out New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi takes out catcher Francisco Cervelli after he was injured in the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays in a baseball game at Yankee Stadium. (April 26, 2013) Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

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When Francisco Cervelli went to the disabled list April 27 with a broken right hand, there was much discussion about how the Yankees would survive without him.

A month later, the catcher has all but been relegated to forgotten-man status.

But Cervelli, who was off to a solid start, particularly defensively, when he broke his hand April 26, is healing and believes he could be back within a month.

"Much better," Cervelli said with a smile in the clubhouse before Tuesday night's game at CitiField. "Doing the 24-hour therapy."

Cervelli, who was batting .269, but had a .377 OBP with three homers and eight RBIs when he got hurt, said the plan is for him to head to Tampa this weekend to begin rehabbing the hand.

"I believe in one week, I can throw the ball," Cervelli said.

From there, the catcher said, he doesn't see why a return two weeks from that point wouldn't be reasonable, meaning a return to the majors in about three weeks.

"If I throw a ball, probably two weeks to get my arm strength and then I'll be ready to go," the 27-year-old said.

Perhaps knowing how conservative the Yankees typically are with injuries, Cervelli smiled and added: "In my opinion."

Not surprisingly, Joe Girardi steered clear of a timetable, speaking in more general terms of the catcher's progress.

"We're just starting to rehab the hand and doing some exercises with it," Girardi said. "He's not ready to throw or do any of that yet but he'll go to Tampa probably sometime this week."

When Cervelli went down, most scouts and talent evaluators, including plenty with the Yankees, saw the organization as catching-thin even with a healthy Cervelli.

Chris Stewart had never been an everyday catcher in his career and Austin Romine, coming off an injury-plagued 2012 in Triple-A and with precious little big-league experience -- he was a call-up in September 2011 -- was unproven.

But Stewart has been, as expected, a defensive star and better-than-expected at the plate, hitting .276 with three homers and seven RBIs.

The tag on Romine was all-field, no-hit and he's pretty much lived up to that billing, mostly handling things behind the plate in the 14 games he's played while batting .108.

The Yankees, as they've done all season on the injury front, have persevered with Cervelli on the DL and even flourished.

And Cervelli, who after spending much of 2012 in the minors, rededicated himself to improving defensively and went out and won the starter's job over Stewart in spring training, wants back in.

"Nobody wants to play more than I do," Cervelli said.

He's going in that direction -- he had his his cast removed Thursday, followed by a minor procedure Friday to remove the pins from his right hand.

"Sometimes it's frustration when you see the games on TV," Cervelli said of sitting out. "But at the same time, you want it more. You want to come back and do things right, especially when you see the team playing so well. You just want to continue what they're doing."

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