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Oversized helmet no joke to Cervelli after concussion

FRANCISCO CERVELLI Position: Catcher | Age: 24 |


Position: Catcher | Age: 24 | Years with Yankees: 2008-Present

Fun Fact: His able performance last year coming up from Double-A to sub for the injured Jorge Posada and Jose Molina earned him his major-league roster spot this season. Credit: Alejandra Villa

TAMPA, Fla. - The oversized helmet got the name-calling started almost immediately.

"Gazoo, Gazoo,'' Francisco Cervelli said, mimicking his teammates who referenced the Flintstones character.

The first to have fun at the 24-year-old catcher's expense was his lockermate in the clubhouse, Jorge Posada.

"What a guy,'' Cervelli said.

Cervelli, who suffered a concussion last Saturday when he was beaned by the Blue Jays' Zech Zinicola, resumed baseball activities Wednesday. During batting practice he wore an oversized helmet with extra padding, similar to the one David Wright experimented with and ultimately rejected last season.

Cervelli wore the helmet for the first time in a game yesterday, a split-squad contest against the Tigers in Lakeland. The Yankees lost, 6-2, but Cervelli singled in his first at-bat and went 2-for-3.

Joe Girardi encouraged Cervelli - who also suffered a concussion in November in winter ball when he was hit with a bat - to try the helmet. Cervelli estimated that he's had at least four concussions in the last five years.

"To me, it just makes sense,'' Girardi said. "If you have something that you've had to deal with, if there's some way to improve the protection and keep you from maybe being injured again, it makes sense to use that device. You look at it and say, why don't more people wear it? Why doesn't everyone wear it?''

For one thing, the helmet, as Cervelli said, is "ugly.'' He said his first reaction upon seeing it was that "it was a joke.''

But Cervelli said that although the helmet is a little heavier, it didn't affect him during batting practice and, aesthetics aside, can only help.

"They worry about me and I have to stay healthy,'' Cervelli said. "It's not for now, but for my whole career. Maybe if I got hit again . . . I don't think it will happen again, but it would be bad. So I have to take care. It's for my health.''

Girardi said baseball should consider making the helmets mandatory, citing progress in equipment over the years.

"I don't think it's going to slow anyone down,'' he said. "I don't think it's really going to affect . . . the only thing it can do is protect them. It's kind of like , they wore no helmet, then they went to the catcher's helmet, then they went to an ear flap. As things improve, we should take advantage of them.''

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