Cervelli holding out hope for return this season

Pirates catcher has been sidelined since Aug. 25 due to quad irritation

Cervelli holding out hope for return this season

MILWAUKEE -- The Pirates only have 15 games remaining after Thursday's off-day in Cincinnati, but catcher Francisco Cervelli still hopes to return from the disabled list before the end of the season.

Out since Aug. 25 due to left quadriceps irritation, Cervelli took batting practice on Wednesday at Miller Park and has run on the field, according to head athletic trainer Todd Tomczyk. Cervelli is still unable to crouch behind the plate, however. He will attempt to resume squatting activities on Friday, giving the Pirates a better idea of if he can realistically return before the end of the season.

"He's pretty driven. This guy wants to come back," Tomczyk said. "He feels he can help these young pitchers develop and help [catcher Elias] Diaz, as well. We are running out of games, so we're working through the balance there, as well."

Injuries have limited Cervelli to 81 games played this season. He missed time in June following a concussion, in August due to a sore left hand and now 18 more games due to the quad injury. He played a career-high 130 games and posted a career-best 3.2 Wins Above Replacement in 2015, his first season with the Pirates, then played only 101 games last season.

While Cervelli won't have much of an on-field impact as the Pirates look toward 2018 over the season's final three weeks, the club prefers to send players into the offseason feeling healthy and confident. That was also the case with right fielder Gregory Polanco, who returned Friday from a strained left hamstring.

"He has done a phenomenal job of identifying and being aware of what he needs to do to finish the season strong," Tomczyk said.

The Pirates will tweak Polanco's offseason training program and have him work closely with outfield/baserunning coach Kimera Bartee in an attempt to keep him healthy throughout 2018. While Polanco has appeared to be holding back at times since coming off the disabled list, he also hustled down the line while trying to beat out a ground ball on Tuesday night.

"Subconsciously, he's being cautious. That's an inherent athlete attribute," Tomczyk said. "It's very encouraging to see him get out there and run."

Winter ball updates
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said he will "make every effort" to see third baseman Jung Ho Kang if he is cleared to play winter ball in the Dominican Republic. Unable to enter the United States all year after being charged with his third DUI since 2009, Kang has agreed to play for the Aguilas Cibaenas club this offseason.

"I'd like to see him personally. I'd like to see him, on top of seeing him play," Hurdle said. "I'm looking forward to seeing how that plays out as well."

It is still not certain if Kang will be able to play this winter, however, because he remains on the Pirates' restricted list. The Bucs are hopeful Kang will acquire a work visa, but they are prepared for the possibility he will not rejoin them next year.

The Pirates will talk to Starling Marte, who missed 80 games following a positive test for the performance-enhancing substance Nandrolone, about possibly playing in his native Dominican Republic this offseason.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.