Cervelli to catch Cole against Cardinals

Cervelli to catch Cole against Cardinals

ST. LOUIS -- When Gerrit Cole faces the Cardinals on Wednesday night in the second game of the series between National League Central contenders, he will be paired with catcher Francisco Cervelli.

Cervelli is the Bucs' regular backstop, and one of the biggest pistons in a firing offensive engine, but he'll be catching the young right-handed ace for just the first time since April 24.

Consider it a postseason dress rehearsal -- although, obviously, no one is calling it that.

For the last 18 of his 22 starts, Cole has formed a battery with Chris Stewart. And it's been a very successful battery, with the Bucs winning 13 of those 18, a big slice of their overall 19-7 record when Stewart starts behind the plate.

But during a playoff crunch, the Pirates wouldn't want to forgo Cervelli's punch. Thus manager Clint Hurdle conceded the importance of giving Cole and Cervelli some time together.

"No specific plans. Frankie and I know each other. It'll just be good to work together again," said Cole, who was paired with Cervelli when Stewart opened the season on the disabled list with a strained right hamstring.

Stewart, incidentally, was never formally acknowledged as Cole's "personal catcher," and Hurdle made a point of clarifying that in an early conversation with his pitcher.

"He called me into his office and just said, 'It's been clicking, so we'll go with it.' More than anything," Cole said, "it was about the scheduling. A lot of my early starts were in day games [following night games, conditions under which teams routinely play No. 2 catchers], so it was also convenient."

Cole took another meeting with Hurdle on Tuesday afternoon and was told about the change in catchers.

"I think it's good," Cole said, thinking both of himself and of Cervelli. "He'll have the advantage of calling pitches against the same lineup three games in a row, maybe picking up some things."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer and on his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.