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Cervelli benefits from Cano's tutelage

TAMPA, Fla. - Robinson Cano pitched the idea in the middle of last season.

"He said, 'Let's go there, let's go there,' " Francisco Cervelli said. " 'I want to help you.' "

The "there" was Cano's home in the Dominican Republic, and Cervelli took the second baseman up on his offer this offseason. Starting Dec. 1, he spent two months with Cano; hitting, training and, perhaps most important, learning.

"Good friend, good teacher," Cervelli said yesterday. "He's been great for me. Every day, you have to do this, you have to do that."

Cervelli said even after Cano catapulted himself among the game's elite in 2010, the second baseman was more driven. "He's one of those guys that never stops," said Cervelli, who hit .271 with a .359 OBP last season in 93 games (80 starts).

Cervelli called Cano "the perfect guy" to learn from and any lessons that might have taken hold for the 24-year-old catcher came at a good time.

Cervelli, after serving as the primary backup the last two years, will be pushed for the role by a pair of the organization's top prospects, Jesus Montero and Austin Romine.

Jorge Posada is shifting to designated hitter - but still remains a possibility to catch some - so only one among Cervelli, Montero and Romine is likely to stick with the team out of spring training.

Cervelli thinks his familiarity with pitchers gives him an edge, but his extensive work this offseason came about because he knows he needs to improve. Additionally, he has higher aspirations than career backup.

"I don't have in my mind to be the backup catcher, I always want more," Cervelli said. "I don't like to be comfortable. Like I say all the time, I want to be a starting catcher one day and I've been working for that. I go out, I play and they make decisions. That's it."

Notes & quotes: Russell Martin squatted and caught in the morning, the first time he's done so since having surgery for a torn meniscus in his right knee in December. He seemed to be fine after agility drills . . . The Yankees agreed to a minor-league deal with Luis Ayala, 33. The righthanded reliever pitched for the Marlins in 2009 and in Mexico this winter (1.99 ERA in 37 appearances).

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