Recurring wrist injury forces Cervelli to exit

Catcher, who left after the sixth inning: 'Every time I swing, it's painful'

Recurring wrist injury forces Cervelli to exit

TORONTO -- Francisco Cervelli despises the idea of asking out of a game. His goal is to play every day, no matter how he feels or how many consecutive days he's spent behind the plate. Being an everyday catcher is his dream, and the "everyday" part of it matters to him.

So, the Pirates' seventh-inning change behind the plate in Sunday's 7-1 loss to the Blue Jays may be cause for concern. Playing through a sore left hand and wrist, Cervelli finally felt the pain was too much and asked out of the game after striking out in the top of the seventh.

"I don't like to get out of the game, man," Cervelli said. "I don't like to get out of the game. It hurts."

Chris Stewart replaced Cervelli, who has had his left hand and wrist banged up by backswings and foul balls over the past couple weeks. He was smacked hard by Yangervis Solarte's swing on Aug. 5, for instance. It's also the same hand that required surgery to remove a broken hamate bone last June.

"I don't know what's the deal there," Cervelli said. "I'm not helping the team the way I'm supposed to do it."

That is perhaps the most frustrating aspect of this recurring injury for Cervelli, who is slashing .249/.340/.370 with five home runs -- none since July 18 and only two since May 10 -- and 31 RBIs this season. He has seven hits, four walks and 18 strikeouts in his last 53 at-bats.

"I don't know what's the deal there," he said. "I cannot hit 100 percent. Every time I swing, it's painful."

Cervelli said the pain most directly affects his swing, but it has also impacted his work behind the plate, particularly when receiving pitches down in the zone. That may be related to Cervelli's slide in advanced statistics that evaluate catchers' pitch-framing success. One of the game's best framers in 2015-16, Cervelli has been worth minus-6.4 "framing runs," according to Baseball Prospectus. By comparison, he saved the Bucs 10.6 framing runs last year and 17.3 in 2015.

"It's been a little difficult," Cervelli said. "Even catching low balls is painful."

Cervelli played a career-high 130 games in 2015, his first season with the Pirates. Injuries limited him to 101 games last season, and Cervelli has played in only 80 of their 118 games this season due to a concussion and viral issues.

The Pirates are already hurting, unable to gain traction in the standings and push beyond the .500 mark. They left Toronto two games under .500 and no closer to the National League Central lead than when they came to town Thursday night.

Andrew McCutchen returned quickly from a bout of knee discomfort that forced him to leave Friday's game early, but the Pirates also lost Gregory Polanco to a hamstring injury Saturday night. So Cervelli will try to play through the pain, hoping he heals enough to help the team win on a daily basis.

"It's what I've been doing. I've been focusing on winning the division. I want to win," Cervelli said. "That's why, in my mind, I cannot step away. I'm going to keep going. Eventually it's going to get better, I think. I don't know when, but hopefully soon because I'm giving everything I got every game to win.

"I need to help the team more offensively, because it's been terrible. I don't get frustrated … but I'm going to fix it."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.