Cervelli (hand) does catching drills, runs bases

Pirates catcher underwent surgery 2 weeks ago

Cervelli (hand) does catching drills, runs bases

PITTSBURGH -- A day after having stitches removed from his surgically repaired left hand, Francisco Cervelli was back behind the plate at PNC Park.

Cervelli, recovering from surgery to remove a fractured hook of his hamate bone, went through a set of catching drills and ran the bases in the Saturday afternoon heat before the Pirates' 6-1 win over the Dodgers.

"He's excited," manager Clint Hurdle said. "When he's excited, I'm excited."

Wearing his full catcher's gear, Cervelli crouched behind home plate and caught several balls in his left hand, which remained lightly wrapped beneath his mitt. He also worked on blocking balls, deflecting bounces off all parts of his body.

"I'm simulating something that is important in the game. I cannot stop," said Cervelli, still sweating as he sat on the Pirates' dugout bench. "When my hand is ready, my body will be ready, too."

Saturday marked two weeks since Cervelli's surgery; the Pirates said at the time he'd need four to six weeks to return to full baseball activities. His hand is still a little sore, he said, and he needs to build up strength around it. He gripped a bat with both hands Friday for the first time since surgery, so hitting is the last hurdle to clear.

"Little by little. I think I'm going to come back soon," Cervelli said. "I think that's going to be the last thing, the swing."

What a relief
Right-hander Juan Nicasio reported to the Pirates' bullpen during Friday's 8-6 win over the Dodgers, his first game since coming off the restricted list following a trip home to the Dominican Republic.

"It's fine. It's not anything new to me," Nicasio said through interpreter Mike Gonzalez. "I've been in the bullpen before. ... I want to be wherever I can be the best for the team, wherever they need me."

Nicasio will work as a long reliever and occasional late-inning setup man, a role he thrived in last year for the Dodgers. Nicasio posted a 3.86 ERA and struck out 10 batters per nine innings. But he struggled in the transition back to the rotation this season, going 5-5 with 5.05 ERA in 12 starts.

"I felt great. I felt healthy as a starter," Nicasio said. "Did it work out the way I wanted? Not really. But I definitely did feel great."

Around the horn
• Right fielder Gregory Polanco (left leg discomfort) was out of the lineup for the second day in a row on Saturday. Polanco felt better after sitting out Friday night, Hurdle said, but the Pirates were unsure whether Polanco would be available off the bench.

• According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Jung Ho Kang is the second Pirates player to homer at least 11 times before the All-Star break after not playing in April. Jason Bay had 12 first-half homers in 2004 after debuting on May 7. Kang has 11 homers since his May 6 debut.

• Left-hander Steven Brault, the Pirates' No. 17 prospect, returned to the Triple-A rotation Saturday after rehabbing a strained left hamstring. Brault made the start that was initially slated for right-hander Chad Kuhl, who will start Sunday for the Pirates.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.