Cervelli gets new helmet, new nickname

Cervelli gets new helmet, new nickname

TAMPA, Fla. -- Francisco Cervelli entered the trainers' room on Thursday thinking he was going to pick up a piece of equipment. The catcher also left with a new nickname.

With the Yankees recommending that Cervelli try wearing the bigger Rawlings S100 batting helmet this season, Jorge Posada has taken to calling his understudy "Gazoo" -- as in, the floating spaceman from "The Flintstones."

Cervelli knew the reference came from a cartoon, but he gasped when he laid eyes upon the goofy green character, hands on hips and antennae poking from his oversize helmet.

"Oh my God," Cervelli said. "They'll have something for the video screen all season."

The wardrobe change came after Cervelli sustained a concussion after being hit in the head by a fastball from the Blue Jays' Zech Zinicola on Saturday.

It was the second concussion in four months for Cervelli, 24, who was hit by a batter's backswing while playing in a November Winter League game in Venezuela.

"They're worried," he said. "I have to stay healthy. It's not for now, it's for my whole career."

The S100 helmet is perhaps best known for its brief use by the Mets' David Wright after he'd been beaned last season, but the third baseman discarded it after just one game.

Manager Joe Girardi recommended that Cervelli give the helmet a try when he returns to action on Friday against the Nationals in Viera, Fla., and is glad the rookie agreed.

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"To me it just makes sense," Girardi said. "If you have [concussions] you've had to deal with, if there's some way to improve the protection or keep you maybe from being injured again, it makes sense to use that device. It is much more padded. It's really unbelievable.

"You look at it and you say, 'Why don't more people wear it? Why doesn't everyone?' Things improve. We should take advantage of them."

But not everyone shares Girardi's viewpoint, it seems.

"I think it's a detriment to try to hit, run in, everything," Braves manager Bobby Cox said on Thursday. "I don't think there's a need for it."

Regardless, it will become mandatory this season at all Minor League levels. The helmet features enhanced protection from a composite insert and an expanded liner made of Polypropylene, a hard, supportive material that is also used in some industrial and bicycle helmets.

Cervelli admitted that he thinks the helmet looks "ugly" and wasn't thrilled when he saw himself in the mirror, but he understands the reasoning behind wearing the improved gear, which can withstand fastballs up to 100 mph.

"I think when I get to first base, I'll change the helmet, because it's a little heavy," he said. "It's not about how I look. I've got to take care of myself."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.