Rossi: Life without Martin will be all right
Long after the hitch, Francisco Cervelli made sure Francisco Liriano heard his pitch.
It was the best part about Opening Day for the Pirates. And it showed that life goes on without Russell Martin.
“Hey, that’s on me,” Cervelli told Liriano inside the visitors’ clubhouse at Great American Ball Park on Monday night.
“That’s my bad.”
Liriano nodded his head approvingly as Cervelli returned to his locker stall. There, he discussed the miscommunication that led to Liriano’s balking in the Cincinnati Reds’ first run.
“I worked with him in spring training, so I’ve got no excuse for that,” Cervelli said.
The pitch to Todd Frazier, a backdoor slider, had been agreed upon. The location led to slight confusion between the Pirates’ battery. Liriano wanted his catcher on the outside of the plate. Cervelli had lined up to the inside.
“I just moved a little bit,” Liriano said.
That move, a hitch, became only his fourth balk since 2010. It also allowed Billy Hamilton to walk home from third base in the third inning.
Liriano, who also surrendered a solo home run, allowed only another hit and struck out seven in as many innings. A performance like that is what the Pirates expected when they signed their No. 1 pitcher to a new contract last fall.
The hitch was not expected. And in the grand scheme of things, it was no big deal — just like the Pirates’ opening loss.
However, by taking responsibility, Cervelli turned a first-day mistake into a big win for the remaining days. Accountability is a must for any catcher, especially the guy replacing Mr. Accountable.
That would be Martin, whose presence was unmistakable in the clubhouse before the opener. Andrew McCutchen was among a few Pirates who watched on TV as Martin took his first at-bat with Toronto.
Cervelli never was going to make anybody forget Martin by the Pirates’ first game. But headed into Game No. 2 on Wednesday, Cervelli is closer to filling the void than anybody could have predicted.
“It went pretty good,” Liriano said. “We were on the same page most of the time. We talked between innings and before the game too. I think we’re on the same page.
“He’s good back there. He’s got a pretty good idea of what he’s doing behind the plate.”
The early read on Cervelli is that he is ideally cast as the Pirates’ next catcher, and not just because he can frame pitches. Like Martin, he seems comfortable leading more than just the pitchers.
Cervelli just flat out seems like a leader.
A clubhouse can never include too many of those kinds of ballplayers.
Neither can a pennant contender.