Yankees acquire Chris Stewart from Giants, send “red-eyed and stunned” Francisco Cervelli to Triple-A

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Russell Martin will have a new backup this season, as the Yankees acquired journeyman catcher Chris Stewart from the Giants in exchange for minor-league right-hander George Kontos and optioned Francisco Cervelli to Triple-A.

Cervelli has been in the majors since 2009, backing up Jorge Posada and then Martin while hitting .272 with a .338 on-base percentage and .354 slugging percentage in 181 games. He’s also thrown out 27 percent of steal attempts.

Marc Carig of the Newark Star Ledger described Cervelli as “red-eyed and stunned” when told of his demotion, and rightfully so because he’s an above average backup catcher and beyond worthy of a big-league roster spot.

I’m not sure the same can be said about Stewart, who’s hit just .200 with a .563 OPS in 93 games as a major leaguer and .259 with a .695 OPS in 421 games at Triple-A. In other words, Cervelli has hit as well in the majors as Stewart has at Triple-A, but the key difference here is that Cervelli had a minor-league option remaining and thus the Yankees can keep him in the organization while adding some catching depth.

MLB, union resume blood testing after pandemic, lockout

Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK – In the first acknowledgment that MLB and the players’ association resumed blood testing for human growth hormone, the organizations said none of the 1,027 samples taken during the 2022 season tested positive.

HGH testing stopped in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Testing also was halted during the 99-day lockout that ended in mid-March, and there were supply chain issues due to COVID-19 and additional caution in testing due to coronavirus protocols.

The annual public report is issued by Thomas M. Martin, independent program administrator of MLB’s joint drug prevention and treatment program. In an announcement accompanying Thursday’s report, MLB and the union said test processing is moving form the INRS Laboratory in Quebec, Canada, to the UCLA Laboratory in California.

MLB tests for HGH using dried blood spot testing, which was a change that was agreed to during bargaining last winter. There were far fewer samples taken in 2022 compared to 2019, when there were 2,287 samples were collected – none positive.

Beyond HGH testing, 9,011 urine samples were collected in the year ending with the 2022 World Series, up from 8,436 in the previous year but down from 9,332 in 2019. And therapeutic use exemptions for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder dropped for the ninth straight year, with just 72 exemptions in 2022.

Overall, the league issued six suspensions in 2022 for performance-enhancing substances: three for Boldenone (outfielder/first baseman Danny Santana, pitcher Richard Rodriguez and infielder Jose Rondon, all free agents, for 80 games apiece); one each for Clomiphene (Milwaukee catcher Pedro Severino for 80 games), Clostebol (San Diego shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. for 80 games) and Stanozolol (Milwaukee pitcher J.C. Mejia for 80 games).

There was an additional positive test for the banned stimulant Clobenzorex. A first positive test for a banned stimulant results in follow-up testing with no suspension.