Veteran catcher continues to be steady presence with three-run shot
By Grace Raynor
NEW YORK -- For nine years with the Braves, Brian McCann had a routine.
Every day, the catcher suited up for his favorite childhood team. He faced the same pitchers in the same ballparks for years, mastering the intricacies of the National League East and finding more of a niche with each passing season. Then after nine seasons with Atlanta, the Georgia native signed with the Yankees as a free agent on Dec. 3, 2013. A new division, a new league and a new pitching staff to learn awaited him -- he'd have to adapt. After McCann's three-run homer propelled the Yankees to a 6-4 win over the Rays on Sunday at Yankee Stadium, manager Joe Girardi indicated that's just what his catcher has done in his second year in the Bronx.
"It's not unusual for players to take a little time to adjust to New York. That's not unusual," Girardi said of McCann's first season in pinstripes. "He probably hasn't had to go through as many starters this year. [He's] had to learn all those and learn the league. I think he's more comfortable with the league. Just time, I think, is the big thing."
With time, McCann has only gotten better. In his first season in New York, he finished with a .232 batting average, 23 homers and 75 RBIs through 140 games. Sunday marked McCann's 112th game of 2015, and he's already registered 86 RBIs and 25 homers to go along with a .245 average. The 25 long balls represent a new career high and his highest mark since 2011, when he hit 24 with the Braves.
Girardi likes the consistency McCann brings.
"He's been such a run producer for us all year long, and to get that type of production out of a catcher doesn't happen very often just because of what they go through physically," Girardi said. "He's really comfortable. He's swinging the bat great and he's been a big part of our success."
McCann has flourished at Yankee Stadium with a right-field porch that plays favorable to his left-handed swing. Of his 48 homers as a Yankee, 35 of them have been in the Bronx. He said the success this year is the result of more experience in the AL East. Against Rays starter Chris Archer -- who entered Sunday with a career 1.78 ERA vs. the Yankees -- his three-run shot tied the game and helped the Yankees hang a loss on Archer for the first time.
"I know the league a lot better. I've seen all these guys for a fourth and fifth and sixth time," McCann said. "When you're changing leagues, that's kind of what you take for granted is facing the No. ones and twos, the lefty specialists, all for the first time. I'm definitely more comfortable in that aspect."
Moving forward, the Yankees will continue to rely on McCann. They're in a tight AL East race with the Blue Jays, whom they trail by 1 1/2 games, and will need his expertise on both sides of the ball as the intensity ramps up.
McCann was a Brave to start, but Girardi's glad he's a Yankee now.
"You look at our scouting department, they looked at Brian McCann and thought he was a really good fit here," Girardi said. "And that's exactly what he's been.
Grace Raynor is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.