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State & Regional
Atlanta Braves sign veteran catcher Francisco Cervelli
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Atlanta Braves sign veteran catcher Francisco Cervelli

Atlanta Braves sign veteran catcher Francisco Cervelli
Photo Credit: Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

FILE - In this March 28, 2019, file photo, Pittsburgh Pirates' Francisco Cervelli hits a single off Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Jared Hughes in the sixth inning of a baseball game in Cincinnati. The Pirates are parting ways with veteran catcher Francisco Cervelli, who has been hampered by multiple concussions this season. The club announced Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019, it requested unconditional release waivers for the 33-year-old Cervelli. (AP Photo/Gary Landers)

FILE - In this May 25, 2019, file photo, Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli is consoled by hitting coach Rick Eckstein, left, after taking himself out of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the fourth inning in Pittsburgh, after being hit in the head by a foul tip earlier in the inning. The Pirates are parting ways with veteran catcher Francisco Cervelli, who has been hampered by multiple concussions this season. The club announced Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019, it requested unconditional release waivers for the 33-year-old Cervelli. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli shakes hands with cleaning crew member Steve Tapia as he heads to his car after leaving the clubhouse Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019, in Pittsburgh. The team had requested his unconditional release on waivers earlier in the day. (Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)

Atlanta Braves sign veteran catcher Francisco Cervelli

NEW YORK (AP) - Francisco Cervelli caught on with a playoff contender, just as he hoped.

The first-place Atlanta Braves signed Cervelli to a one-year contract Saturday and immediately plugged the veteran catcher into the starting lineup against the New York Mets. After recovering from his latest concussion, it was his first game in the majors since May 25.

"The only way he's going to get to know these guys is to catch 'em," Braves manager Brian Snitker said.

About two hours before the game, Cervelli said he was still waiting for his catching equipment to arrive at Citi Field. But on the second pitch he saw in his first at-bat, he laced a two-run double into the left field corner for a 2-0 lead. He added a sharp single his next time up.

Cervelli, who has a long history of concussions, was granted his release Thursday by the last-place Pittsburgh Pirates after telling them he wanted to hook on with a big league team that had playing time to offer and a chance to reach the postseason. He gives the NL East leaders a proven replacement for injured catcher Brian McCann, sidelined earlier in the week by a sprained left knee.

"It's amazing," Cervelli said. "My only mission here is win. I'm wired that way."

Atlanta will pay Cervelli $110,403, a prorated portion of the $555,000 major league minimum. That is offset against his $11.5 million salary in the final season of the $31 million, three-year contract with Pittsburgh that he was released from.

The 33-year-old Cervelli joined the Braves at Citi Field and batted seventh against Mets right-hander Zack Wheeler. Snitker said Cervelli will split playing time with Tyler Flowers behind the plate and likely remain with the club when McCann returns because by then rosters will have expanded in September.

"He's got skills. He's a good little catcher," Snitker said. "While Mac's out, he's going to be nice little pairing with Tyler."

Cervelli dealt with multiple concussions this season and batted .193 with one home run and five RBIs in 34 games for the Pirates. He recently completed a minor league rehab assignment that began Aug. 11 at Double-A Altoona in the Pittsburgh organization. He played one game there and then caught six games at Triple-A Indianapolis.

"I'm not a little kid anymore, so I kind of know exactly what I need and how many games," Cervelli said. "I've been working so hard besides the game for a long time to get back at my best."

Cervelli acknowledged that two months ago, he was a little jittery about catching again after his most recent concussion in May. A report suggested he didn't plan to go back behind the plate, but Cervelli insisted he didn't say that - someone else did.

After working out in the infield, he moved back to catcher in the minors. He said he was bored at other positions and threw away his infield glove.

"I'm not a baseball player. I'm a catcher," he said. "I've been doing it for 17 years and that's all I'm going to do. And, I like to be behind the plate. It sounds crazy, but I like to get hit and do my thing. So, I'm here now."

He said he quietly underwent a new therapy with a new doctor and is feeling good.

"I put everything I had," said Cervelli, the Pirates' opening day catcher each of the past five years.

Cervelli began the night a .269 career hitter with 36 home runs and 261 RBIs in 700 major league games. His .362 on-base percentage in 450 games with Pittsburgh was second among big league catchers during that span to San Francisco's Buster Posey (.368).

To make roster room for Cervelli, the Braves optioned catcher Alex Jackson to Triple-A Gwinnett and transferred left-hander Grant Dayton to the 60-day injured list.

Cervelli, from Venezuela, spent the first seven years of his career with the New York Yankees and played in 42 games for the 2009 World Series champions.

"I feel like a lucky man," he said. "Just the fact that I went to Triple-A and played baseball. It doesn't matter what it is. I played there like a kid again, and now I feel more grateful just to get picked up by a team who is in first place and they like to win. That's the whole idea."

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AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report.

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More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Georgia Sports News

  • ATHENS Georgia football passed the test Saturday night, but just barely. Coach Kirby Smart and his Bulldogs surely need the bye week they are afforded this week after surviving Notre Dame by a 23-17 count at Sanford Stadium. It was a case of home field advantage trumping the so-called luck of the Irish. UGA fans were so loud that they triggered six motion penalties and forced Notre Dame to burn valuable timeouts. As for the 4-0 Bulldogs, they were often their own worst enemies, from muffed punts to tight ends running wide open. There will be a great deal of disparity where takes on this game are concerned, depending on if people consider Notre Dame a legitimate top 10 opponent, or revert back to the Irish's 30-3 CFP final score last season. The baseline here is that Notre Dame is indeed a Top 10 opponent, and certainly the best team Georgia will see until the month of November when a trip to Auburn is on tap. Another issue here is this looked like a game plan with personnel decisions that were made without regard to the first three games of the season. Quarterback (A) Jake Fromm was 20-of-26 passing for 187 yards and a touchdown, and once again he came through when afforded the opportunity to use tempo in UGA's version of the hurry-up. Fromm put the ball in tight windows and used his legs for two rushes that netted 15 yards. Once Fromm went downfield, the offense came to life, making one wonder why that isn't the approach from the onset. Running backs (B) Brian Herrien had the longest run of the night, a much-needed 16-yarder that sparked a key scoring drive in the second half. D'Andre Swift had 18 carries for 98 yards, including a highlight-worthy 10-yarder during which he leaped a player. Neither Swift (5.4) nor Herrien (5.2) were able to take over the game, however. Meanwhile, James Cook only got one carry and Zamir White and Kenny McIntosh didn't touch the ball. Receivers (A) Lawrence Cager was outstanding, likely playing himself into the 2020 NFL Draft with that 5-catch, 82-yard performance that included a gyrating TD grab that proved to be the difference in the game Demetris Robertson had 4 catches for 48 yards and Dominick Blaylock looked good (2-19) when afforded the opportunity. George Pickens, the most talented WR in the group, was only targeted twice. Eli Wolf is clearly the best TE target on the team and showed that again with a clutch third down grab. Offensive Line (B-) Notre Dame ranked 120th in the nation against the run, but you'd never know it by the way it held up against the Georgia offensive line. The Bulldogs averaged 4.6 yards per rush, but Jake Fromm saw more pressure than he'd seen all season and took one particularly nasty shot when Cade Mays got beat off the edge. Isiah Wilson's return for the third quarter provided a lift. Justin Shaffer filled in well, but he had a costly 15-yard personal foul. Defensive Line (A-) This much-maligned unit is starting to earn respect with its gritty and disciplined play his season. Notre Dame's run game was pretty much non-existent (3.3 yards per carry), and for all he talk on Ian Book UGA kept him contained for the most part. Georgia nearly made a goal-line stand thanks to the physical efforts of the Bulldogs' defensive line, which forced four downs inside the 5. Tyler Clark, Justin Young and Jordan Davis were warriors. Linebackers (A-) It was Tae Crowder's finest performance, as he came through with nine stops and the best open-field tackling performance of his career. Crowder had one of just three TFLs for the Bulldogs as well. Monty Rice had seven tackles including what appeared to be a bone-jarring hit on Book that had to leave a mark. Outside backers Nolan Smith and Jermaine Johnson were in hot pursuit of Book on the final play, forcing a scramble that limited the effectiveness of the final heave. Secondary (B-) J.R. Reed's late interception was the sort of veteran play he'll be looked to make in all the big games. Reed led the defense with 3 PBU and tied Richard LeCounte with seven tackles. The unit had to step up with Tyson Campbell out for the game and Eric Stokes missing from the second play until late in the fourth quarter with a leg injury. D.J. Daniel had 5 tackles at corner and provided mostly adequate coverage. Tyrique McGhee is another veteran who stepped up, repping at corner all week with Campbell out and not getting UGA beat. Special teams (D) If not for Rodrigo Blankenship's steady field goal kicks makes of 40, 31 and 43 this unit was a fail. Sophomore punter Jake Camarda performed like a nervous freshman, shanking two kicks at critical junctures at the start of the game (25 yards) and again at the end (27 yards). Tyler Simmons punt return muff at the 8 set up Notre Dame for it's only TD of the first half. The kick return game continues to disappoint despite all the big names in the group. Coaching (D+) Credit to Georgia for some halftime adjustments, because Notre Dame arrived with the better game plan and use of its personnel. The Irish coached to win and UGA coached not to lose, and nearly gave the game away in the fourth quarter (Alabama, anyone?). The Bulldogs reluctance to use tempo more often is curious considering Fromm's efficiency. The inability to account for the tight end (9-108) was mind-bogging. Cole Kmet was running wide open too many times. Some offensive personnel usage decisions will be worth reviewing. Overall (B) The fans can pat themselves on the back for helping to decide this game, as they bailed out the coaches on a night when the Georgia players battled their guts out against a determined Notre Dame football team. Smart needs to use the off week and review his big-game and fourth quarter philosophies. It could be a matter of the Bulldogs underestimating the Irish. Whatever, UGA appears a half-click off from performing at a championship level, and it's not a matter of player talent. DawgNation Georgia-Notre Dame Kirby Smart says Georgia got tested' in 23-17 win Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly: Physicality was real' Georgia football game ball goes to WR Lawrence Cager Stock report: Georgia has its ups and downs in win over Irish Recap: Georgia football holds on to beat Notre Dame, 23-17 Notre Dame injuries stop momentum, beg questions Vince Dooley showed mercy in previous Top 10 Athens matchup The post Georgia report card: Bulldogs overcome themselves in 23-17 win over Notre Dame appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly will remember Saturday night's classic at Georgia as one of the most physical games he has personally witnessed. 'You could hear it out there, the physicality was real,' Kelly said. 'It was probably one of the most physical games that I have coached, against any team that I have competed against, and that's a lot of games that I've coached.' The No. 3-ranked Bulldogs held off Kelly's No. 7-ranked Fighting Irish, 23-17, before a record crowd of 93,246 at Sanford Stadium. Notre Dame outplayed Georgia in the first half, taking a 10-7 lead into intermission before the Bulldogs' depth took its toll. 'Up front, we're trying to match (personnel), and trying to figure out what's going to come on the field,' Kelly said, 'and it's 3-down (linemen) and it's 4-down and it's different personnel groupings. It's more depth than we've seen.' The Bulldogs' offensive line took its toll as well. Georgia rushed for 97 of its 152 yards on the ground in the second half. The Bulldogs, however, were unable to break a run longer than 16 yards against a Notre Dame defense that entered the night 120th in the nation against the run. 'We kind of knew what we had and what we needed to do in this game,' Kelly said. 'If you give Georgia the opportunity to run the football, you have no chance to win the game. 'The game plan was set that they were going to have some one-on-one shots on the perimeter, but the extra hat was going to be committed to the run. And they hit some one-on-one shots on the perimeter, but we had to be effective against the run, or we had no chance.' Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly DawgNation Georgia-Notre Dame Georgia football game ball goes to WR Lawrence Cager Stock report: Georgia has its ups and downs in win over Irish Recap: Georgia football holds on to beat Notre Dame, 23-17 Notre Dame injuries stop momentum, beg questions Vince Dooley showed mercy in previous Top 10 Athens matchup The post WATCH Brian Kelly: Physicality was real' in 23-17 loss to Georgia appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS Georgia coach Kirby Smart learned something about his program on Saturday night, and it was very nearly a painful lesson. Smart and his No. 3-ranked Bulldogs escaped, pulling out a 23-17 win over Notre Dame. But not before the No. 7-ranked Irish (2-1) took UGA (4-0) down to the wire. The biggest home weekend in recent Georgia football history the first non-conference matchup of Top 10 teams since 1966 very nearly became the most disappointing. 'You don't know what's inside you in life or football until you get tested, and I thought we we got tested tonight, and found out a lot about our team,' Smart said, moments after his defense knocked down Ian Book's fourth down pass from the Georgia 37-yard line in the game's final moments. 'We're far from perfect, and we've got to get a lot better,' Smart said, 'but they'll fight you over and over again.' That's what it took against a physical and determined Fighting Irish team that came in seeking respect after being designated a two-touchdown underdog. Notre Dame took chances downfield from the onset. The Irish pierced Smart's defense repeatedly with tight end Cole Kmet, who had 9 catches for 108 yards and a TD. 'They were running boots, waggles, (and) that guy is a phenomenal player,' Smart said. 'You notice later in the game they tried to target him and we had two or three pass break-ups.' The Bulldogs also had two second-half interceptions and held the Irish without a third down in the third quarter. Georgia had star players step up, too. RELATED: WR Lawrence Cager steps up in clutch 'There were some really large hearts out there tonight,' Smart said. 'D'Andre Swift ran the ball with passion, guts and just relentless effort.' Swift had a career-high 18 carries for 98 yards and a TD, hurdling a Notre Dame player on a spectacular 10-yard run. 'The effort and leadership of a Jake Fromm, for him to third down scramble and take two hits and almost get a first down and manage the game really beautifully,' Smart said. 'And the defense to rise up and keep playing past a bunch of injuries, a couple injuries on the offensive line, I'm just proud of our guys.' Fromm was 20-of-26 passing for 187 yards passing and a TD, taking care of the football against was had been a very opportunistic Notre Dame football teams It was a beat-up Georgia team by the end of the night, several players pushing through injuries to help the Bulldogs pull out the win Cornerback Eric Stokes left the game with a leg injury on Notre Dame's second play, only to return late in the fourth quarter to help stem the Irish's comeback attempt. The Bulldogs lost starting left guard Solomon Kindley to a left ankle injury in the second quarter, triggering yet another shuffle on an offensive line that entered the night without Isaiah Wilson. Wilson came off the bench to start the second half, like Stokes, pushing through in a game where every play mattered. Indeed, even the crowd played a pivotal role. The Sanford Stadium record crowd of 93,246 triggered six Notre Dame motion penalties. 'I think when you get tested, you find out something about yourself inside,' Smart said. 'They had not been tested like that. They came out fighting.' Georgia football coach Kirby Smart DawgNation Georgia-Notre Dame Georgia football game ball goes to WR Lawrence Cager Stock report: Georgia has its ups and downs in win over Irish Recap: Georgia football holds on to beat Notre Dame, 23-17 Notre Dame injuries stop momentum, beg questions Vince Dooley showed mercy in previous Top 10 Athens matchup The post WATCH Kirby Smart: Georgia got tested' in 23-17 win over Notre Dame appeared first on DawgNation.
  • Here's something you can expect to happen a lot over the next 48 hours: No. 3-ranked UGA will be penalized and criticized by the national media because the Bulldogs didn't beat Notre Dame convincingly enough as the national media had predicted. Notre Dame will get more credit for losing a close game on the road rather than UGA will for actually winning a big game. Crazy, huh? ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit is arguably college football's top influencer, and he got the narrative rolling in the wee hours of Sunday morning when he tweeted out his top four. UGA dropped out of Herbstreit's top four last week, and they stayed that way this week despite the fact that Bulldogs had just defeated a top-10 opponent in No. 7 Notre Dame. But it was Herbstreit's next tweet that stirred up UGA fans where he focused more on Notre Dame's gaining 'national respect' for their 'willingness to play in a heavyweight brawl' on the road, as opposed to elongated praise for the Bulldogs for pulling out the clutch win, despite not playing at their best (Herbie did throw UGA a small bone with the 'great win' comment, if that counts for much). SO IMPRESSED by @NDFootball tonight!! Willingness to play in a heavyweight brawl. Battled and had a chance to win in the end. Did NOTHING to hurt their cause-only strengthened their position. Great win for @GeorgiaFootball but Irish on the road gained some national respect! Kirk Herbstreit (@KirkHerbstreit) September 22, 2019 Herbstreit is one of the first college football influencers to spin that narrative, but he won't be the last within the next couple of days. For UGA, it's a tough position because the Bulldogs never said they would win big that was Las Vegas and the national media. The post Kirk Herbstreit leaves UGA out of his top 4 again, heavily praises Notre Dame appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS Georgia receiver Lawrence Cager was ready and waiting after the Bulldogs turned QB Jake Fromm loose in the second half. Cager helped provide just enough offense in the second half for Georgia to beat Notre Dame 23-17. Cager's pivotal leaping TD grab in the corner of the end zone provided the Bulldogs with a 20-10 leads with 13:19 left in the game. Cager, a graduate transfer from Miami, helped key the touchdown drive with a leaping 36-yard catch four plays earlier. It was also Cager helping to keep the Bulldogs in the game in the first half, coming up with a contested 4-yard catch on a third-and-9. The reception sustained a 13-play, 75-yard TD drive that tied the game 7-7 in the second quarter. Cager finished with 5 catches for 82 yards and a TD. Safety Divaad Wilson made a good case for himself, as well. Wilson secured a momentum-turning interception in the third quarter and came up with a key PBU on third down. The post Georgia football game ball in 23-17 win over Notre Dame: WR Lawrence Cager appeared first on DawgNation.