Francisco Cervelli
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Francisco Cervelli is done catching

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In an exclusive interview with Dejan Kovacevic of DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli announced that he’s ready to transition out of a catching role. It’s a position he’s held for the entirety of his 12-year trek in the majors, and one that has triggered an alarming number of concussions as well. Now, in the middle of another lengthy recovery from his sixth concussion — this one sustained after he took a Joc Pederson broken bat backswing off of his helmet — it appears the veteran backstop is ready to take a step back.

“That’s enough,” Cervelli told Kovacevic. “This time is different. I can’t live like this.”

Kovacevic adds that Cervelli’s decision is not the result of any coercion by the Pirates. Rather, it appears to be a natural response to one too many traumatic injuries. The 33-year-old backstop also made it clear that he isn’t contemplating retirement anytime soon, but anticipates a possible return to the Pirates’ roster once he completes additional medical evaluations and plays through a rehab assignment at Triple-A Indianapolis.

After that, it’s not clear what the future holds for Cervelli. While he has some prior experience working both infield corners, the Pirates are pretty well set with Josh Bell and Colin Moran at first and third, respectively, and may not have great need for the veteran backup infielder as they jockey for a better position in the NL Central standings during the second half of 2019. Cervelli has yet to impress at the plate this year, too, as he slashed a paltry .193/.279/.248 with four extra-base hits and a .526 OPS in 123 plate appearances for the team before landing on the 10-day injured list in late May.

Still, there’s reason to believe that he may find another way to extend his major-league career. He’ll finish out a five-year run with the Pirates at the end of the year and, barring some creative restructuring of their roster, will be free to seek another opportunity via free agency.

Japanese Baseball to begin June 19

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Japanese League commissioner Atsushi Saito announced that Japan’s professional baseball season will open on June 19. Teams can being practice games on June 2. There will be no fans. Indeed, the league has not yet even begun to seriously discuss a plan for fans to begin attending games, though that may happen eventually.

The season will begin three months after its originally scheduled opening day of March 20. It will be 120 games long. Teams in each six-team league — the Central League and Pacific League — will play 24 games against each league opponent. There will be no interleague play and no all-star game.

The announcement came in the wake of a national state of emergency being lifted for both Tokyo and the island of Hokkaido. The rest of the country emerged from the state of emergency earlier this month. This will allow the Japanese leagues to follow leagues in South Korea and Taiwan which have been playing for several weeks.

In the United States, Major League Baseball is hoping to resume spring training in mid June before launching a shortened regular season in early July. That plan is contingent on the league and the players’ union coming to an agreement on both financial arrangements and safety protocols for a 2020 season. Negotiations on both are ongoing. Major League Baseball will, reportedly, make a formal proposal about player compensation tomorrow.