Pirates’ Francisco Cervelli returns to lineup after another concussion

July 29, 2018

Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli said he wasn’t scared when his concussion symptoms returned for the fourth time in two seasons, but he conceded a horrible truth about head injuries.

“It’s weird. You don’t feel right,” he said. “It’s not funny when you wake up, and you’re like that for days.”

Cervelli’s symptoms, including dizziness and bad balance, have disappeared, he said. But they have emerged twice and forced two stays on the disabled list between June 22 and July 14. Cervelli ended his most recent 12-day stay on the 10-day disabled list Thursday and returned to the Pirates’ starting lineup for their game against the New York Mets at PNC Park.

“I feel good,” he said. “I’m back again. Round 3. Let’s do it.”

After returning from the disabled list July 8, he played in five games and managed one hit in 14 at-bats. He said he took four hits off his catcher’s mask in that time. Manager Clint Hurdle said it was five, plus an errant swing of the bat.

“That’s cruel and unusual punishment as soon as he walked back in,” Hurdle said.

Avoiding such mishaps while remaining a catcher is difficult, if not impossible, Cervelli said.

“Watch the game from the stands or in a suite or stay in here (the clubhouse). That’s the only way,” he said.

The rest might have done Cervelli some good, and thanks to the All-Star break that started two days after he was deactivated, he only missed nine games.

“What happened the last time is bad luck,” he said. “Let’s do it again.”

Cervelli said he doesn’t know how frequently he will play in his first days back on the roster, but he admitted, “For now, I think it’s going to go slow and then pick it up.”

He said he doesn’t want to think about what repeated concussions might mean to his long-term health, but he did talk about it during his five-minute chat with reporters before the game.

“It’s something that is real,” he said, “and I have to get on top of this in the offseason and keep doing what I have to do to keep healthy, especially after baseball.”

He said he might even consult with hockey and football players, whose games make them similarly susceptible to head injuries.

“It’s not just about today,” he said. “It’s about 20, 30 years from now.”

Doctors, who ordered Cervelli to the disabled list less than two weeks ago, cleared him to return Thursday, but that was not accomplished without rigorous testing.

“There is a different clearance than a guy coming back and his hamstring is 50 percent,” Hurdle said.

Cervelli has taken ground balls in practice, but there have been no serious conversations about giving up his catching career. Those would be difficult talks, anyway.

“Right now, I’m a catcher,” he said.

Added Hurdle: “From my perspective, it’s telling a matador not to fight bulls.”

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