McCann finally faces college teammate Eibner

McCann finally faces college teammate Eibner

KANSAS CITY -- James McCann used to have the challenge of catching Brett Eibner's power fastball at the University of Arkansas. On Thursday, he had the challenge of coming up with a game plan for how to pitch to the Royals' rookie sensation, now an outfielder, who just returned from the disabled list.

The latter is slightly less intimidating, the Tigers' catcher said, because Eibner's fastball didn't always have the best command. But that doesn't make the task of holding down Eibner's bat any easier.

"His talent is off the charts," McCann said. "That's apparent in how high he was drafted. Unfortunately since he's gotten into pro ball, he's just had so many injuries that derailed him for a little while. But you see what he's doing. He's got the ability."

Eibner and McCann played two seasons together at Arkansas before Eibner went pro, drafted by the Royals in the second round in 2010. McCann went in the second round a year later to the Tigers. They have the same agent.

They didn't face each other on the way up the Minor Leagues. The only time they were in the same league was 2011, when both were in the Class A Midwest League. But McCann played just nine games for West Michigan that summer. Still, McCann remembers him well.

"He started my freshman year and then he became our closer my sophomore year," McCann said. "I caught him in a one-hitter against Georgia my freshman year. He's 96-99 [mph] with a 90-mph slider. He can run. He can cover ground in the outfield with the best of them. ...

"He's one of the most God-gifted, freakishly talented athletes I've ever been around. He's special."

Tigers sign nine Draft picks

The Tigers on Thursday announced deals with nine selections from last week's Draft. The highest pick to sign was seventh-rounder Austin Sodders, a left-handed pitcher from Cal-Riverside. The only other pick from the first two days to sign was 10th-rounder Sam Machonis, a right fielder from Florida Southern.

Others to sign included Towson catcher Brady Policelli (13th round), Columbia second baseman Will Savage (16th round), Ashland right-hander Brandyn Sittinger (17th round), Marshall righty Burris Warner (22nd round), Michigan lefty Evan Hill (24th round), Florida Atlantic right-hander Colyn O'Connell (26th round) and Miami-Ohio shortstop Chad Sedio (27th round).

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.