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Francisco Cervelli finally gets opportunity to start

Yankees' catcher Francisco Cervelli after batting practice on

Yankees' catcher Francisco Cervelli after batting practice on Field 1 at George Steinbrenner Field during spring training in Tampa, Fla. (Feb. 13, 2013) Photo Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

TAMPA, Fla. -- Francisco Cervelli was tempted to play for his native Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic. Ultimately, however, the opportunity presenting itself this spring training took precedence.

"This is what I've been looking for," he said Saturday morning.

He was referring to his chance to win a starting job in the big leagues for the first time in his career.

Cervelli, 26, who spent the vast majority of the 2012 season in Triple-A, is competing with Chris Stewart and Austin Romine for the job of Yankees catcher. Romine is the long-shot candidate; the prevailing opinion in the organization is that he would be better served playing every day in Triple-A.

It's already been a challenging few weeks for Cervelli. His name was linked last week to Biogenesis, the Miami anti-aging clinic under investigation for selling performance-enhancing drugs -- he has denied purchasing any PEDs or ever taking them -- and Saturday brought a reminder of his job's physical perils.

During live BP, Cervelli took a foul ball off his throwing hand and was hit in the hand by a short-hopped pitch. "Very painful," he said in the clubhouse.

Asked how he was, he smiled.

"Perfect," he said. "Never better."


Packed scheduleSpring training is a bit condensed this year because of the World Baseball Classic, and Joe Girardi said it will be a little odd having a game less than a week after Monday's first full-squad workout.

"We'll have to measure where our guys are at, make sure they're OK," he said. "The one thing you'd like to have them do is running the bases in spikes, just so they're prepared for that. They're going to get thrown into some live BP right away. My guess is they're going to be a little rusty, but we'll figure it out."

Extra basesDuring live BP, with general manager Brian Cashman watching, catching prospect Gary Sanchez hit a long home run off lefty Nik Turley, a 6-4 lefthander who had a standout 2012 for Class A Tampa before being promoted to Double-A Trenton . . . Position players are scheduled to report Sunday, and Girardi said his expectation is that everyone will be on time.

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