Pirates C Francisco Cervelli says he's giving up catching after sixth concussion

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Jack Baer
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PHOENIX, ARIZONA - MAY 15: Francisco Cervelli #29 of the Pittsburgh Pirates in action during the MLB game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on May 15, 2019 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Diamondbacks won 11-1. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
It's the end of the road for Francisco Cervelli's catching career (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)

After yet another trip to the concussion injured list, Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli is calling it quits behind the plate.

The 12-year MLB veteran told DKPittsburghSports.com on Sunday that he will be giving up his primary position after suffering the sixth reported concussion of his career.

"That's enough," Cervelli said. "This time is different. I can't live like this."

Big change for Cervelli’s career

Cervelli reportedly didn’t say what position he intends to play, but moving away from catcher will put a lot more pressure on his bat to produce. The 33-year-old has long been one of the more dependable bats at the position with a career .358 on-base percentage, but he’s hit only .193/.279/.248 in 123 plate appearances this season.

In addition to 663 games played at catcher during his career, Cervelli has seen 13 games (10 starts) at first base, four games at third base and two games at second base.

Cervellis has reportedly practiced fielding grounders and fly balls over the last few days, so he could also give the outfield a shot. Still on the IL for the next few weeks, he reportedly emphasized that the Pirates did not push him into this decision.

"I'm ready to do anything," he said. "Wherever I am in the field, I'm still catching the ball, right?"

Concussions still an issue for catchers

While some of the most scary moments in baseball were eliminated once MLB banned the practice of trucking catchers during plays at the plate, concussions still remain a major threat for catchers due to, well, everything that can happen when a ball hurtles toward home plate at high speeds while a bat comes around to hit it.

Cervelli sustained his latest concussion after taking a broken bat to the chin on May 25. San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey, among others, also landed on the concussion IL this year after getting hit in the mask with a foul tip.

Notably, Minnesota Twins great Joe Mauer had to give up the position after doctors told him another foul tip to the mask could cause even worse concussions than the one that caused him to miss months. Now, Cervelli is doing the same thing.

There’s not much MLB can do to address those injuries without changing the very fabric of baseball, but Pirates general manager Neil Huntington has advocated for one rule change that would allow players with a suspected concussion to exit games and re-enter after being cleared. Such a change would take away the risk of potentially hurting the team by exiting early for an evaluation that could turn out to be unnecessary.

It might be too late to help Cervelli, but it could be a boon for athletes playing one of the most physically demanding positions in sports with only one backup in most games.

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