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Francisco Cervelli wins Yankees' backup catcher job

Francisco Cervelli tosses the ball after making a

Francisco Cervelli tosses the ball after making a play at the plate in the third inning of a spring training game against the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater, Fla., Thursday, March 13, 2014. Credit: AP / Kathy Willens

DUNEDIN, Fla. - You can understand Francisco Cervelli's reticence to celebrate.

So regardless of the overwhelming evidence -- John Ryan Murphy and Austin Romine being optioned to Triple-A late Tuesday night -- suggesting that Cervelli officially had won the backup catcher's job, the 28-year-old wasn't going there.

"I don't know,'' Cervelli said Wednesday morning before the Yankees' 10-6 loss to the Blue Jays. "I'll tell you in Houston [Tuesday, Opening Day]. If you see my luggage in Houston, I'll be happy.''

Cervelli knows not to take anything for granted.

Two springs ago, just as the Yankees were about to break camp, they acquired Chris Stewart, a move that suddenly pushed a shocked Cervelli, the presumed backup, to Triple-A Scranton / Wilkes-Barre.

He's in no danger of being sent to the minors this year, but with teams in need of catching help and the Yankees in search of infielders, general manager Brian Cashman has received calls on Cervelli, hitting a team-best .455 with four homers.

Ellsbury OK

Jacoby Ellsbury, out since March 14 with tightness in his right calf, started in centerfield and went 1-for-4 with a walk in a Class-A game against the Pirates in Tampa.

"It's comforting that he's playing and he was able to play the outfield today,'' Joe Girardi said.

Cashman told reporters in Tampa that he expects Ellsbury will be ready for Opening Day. He went 1-for-4 with two walks Tuesday as the designated hitter in a minor-league intrasquad game.

Betances improves stock

While Dellin Betances continued his strong bid for a bullpen spot with a perfect sixth inning, lowering his ERA to 0.79, Preston Claiborne again struggled and appears bound for Triple-A to start the season.

"The stuff has not been the same, for whatever reason,'' Girardi said of Claiborne, who did not retire a batter in the fifth while allowing six runs that ballooned his ERA to 14.29. "When we got him up last year, he had been on a roll. He was throwing the ball very well, and he has not been able to do that this spring.''

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