Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli handles a pitch from Phil Hughes...

Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli handles a pitch from Phil Hughes against the Red Sox. (May 17, 2010) Credit: David Pokress

Francisco Cervelli's not going to hit .400 this season. That much the Yankees know.

But with each little bump and bruise that knocks Jorge Posada out of the lineup - last night's was a sore foot, courtesy of a foul ball from Sunday - the idea of Cervelli becoming more than a backup grows at Yankee Stadium.

And with Nick Johnson ready to have wrist surgery and out until who-knows-when, the Yankees suddenly find themselves without a full-time designated hitter. The notion of sliding Posada into the DH spot and using Cervelli as the No. 1 backstop is gaining traction - in the public consciousness, at least.

Where it is not gaining traction is in the stated plans of Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and manager Joe Girardi. They say they are committed to rotating the DH spot among their older regular players - Alex Rodriguez was the DH last night against the Red Sox - and using the 38-year-old Posada as the No. 1 catcher when he's healthy.

But that doesn't mean Cervelli, who went 2-for-4 Monday night to boost his batting average to .400, isn't opening their eyes.

"Well, if he hits .400 and throws and blocks the way he is, he's probably going to be here a long, long time," Girardi said. "We really like what we see. He's a line-drive hitter that knows how to handle the bat, and he's shown that since he's been up here. But you have to continue to prove yourself every day in this game. But we're excited about the prospects of Cervelli."

Cervelli found himself in the sixth spot in the batting order against righthander Daisuke Matsuzaka on MOnday night. The Yankees were without the injured Posada and Nick Swisher.

Cervelli usually bats eighth or ninth, but he seemed right at home in the sixth spot last night. He came up with runners on first and second and the Yankees leading 3-0 and ripped a double into the right-centerfield gap to drive in Alex Rodriguez. In the fifth, he singled with two outs and scored on Marcus Thames' double.

That Cervelli delivered with men on base should not have come as a surprise. His numbers this season when at least one base is occupied (including the at-bat in the first inning last night) are staggering:

With runners on base, he is 16-for-27 (.593) with 15 RBIs;

With runners in scoring position, he is 11-for-14 (.786) with 15 RBIs;

With two outs and runners in scoring position, he is 6-for-7 (.857) with nine RBIs.

Cervelli is thought to be an excellent defensive catcher, but the Yankees already knew that. What they didn't know was that the lifetime .263 hitter in the minor leagues is - to this point - a better hitter in the majors, with a .329 career average after last night's third at-bat.

Oh, and after that double, Cervelli was batting .404 for the season. In his next at-bat, he struck out and dipped to .397. Nobody's perfect.

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