From Yogi Berra to Jorge Posada, the New York Yankees have always had a rich tradition of great catchers. Former Braves catcher Brian McCann agreed to terms with the Bronx Bombers in late November. McCann was a 7-time All-Star during his 9-year stint with Atlanta. The Yankees hope McCann will bring a strong veteran presence to the clubhouse, especially the pitching staff.
When the Yankees signed McCann in late November, he received an iPad. And no it was not a gift. The iPad contained videos of the Yankees pitching staff last year. There were four videos for each pitcher, two good games and two bad games. The iPad also included videos of top AL East hitters plate appearances last season, hitters such as Jose Reyes. Once the Yankees signed Masahiro Tanaka, new videos were added of Tanaka pitching in Japan. McCann watched and studied all of these videos before arriving in Tampa. McCann shared his thoughts about spring training by saying:
Spring training, everybody complains every year that it’s too long, but this is the only year I probably won’t complain about it being too long. I’m going to use all eight weeks down here to get to know these pitchers. It’s going to be good, a good eight weeks.
McCann signed a 5-year contract with the Yankees. So what do the Yankees expect in those five years from him? After losing a powerful left-handed bat in Robinson Cano, New York hopes McCann can replace some of that lost power. The main expectation that McCann needs to focus on however is keeping the pitching staff stable and consistent. Manager Joe Girardi explains this by stating:
The biggest thing for me, is handling the pitching staff and getting the most out of them and having that ability. Being able to earn that trust of your staff where they trust what you’re doing back there is extremely important.
The Yankees started showing interest in McCann in 2005. It was his second start behind the plate in his career. He helped guide Braves pitcher John Smotlz through a gem. As the years went by, the Braves pitching staff evolved as McCann became the every day catcher from John Smoltz to Kris Medlen. Last year, the Braves pitching staff was at the top of the National League in terms of ERA.
Not only has McCann been studying game film from last year, he has been studying two different languages. A catcher needs to be able to communicate with his pitchers. Two of the Yankees starting pitchers are Japanese and Masahiro Tanaka’s English is not very strong. Ivan Nova speaks more Spanish than English.
As you can see, McCann has been busy with his new team this spring. However, he has gained the trust of his new pitching staff. David Phelps said,
He’s a big target, and he’s got soft hands. You watch him and he doesn’t drop balls. He’ll get you that low strike. And one of the big things, too, is that he’s been successful as long as he has, you know he has a good relationship with the umpires as well.
McCann has the credentials, the reputation, and the work ethic to become the next great Yankee catcher. All that is left now is playing the game.