Regaining flexibility tops McCann's to-do list

Tigers catcher '100 percent healthy' after ankle sprain

Regaining flexibility tops McCann's to-do list

DETROIT -- James McCann arguably lost quite a bit more than a month on the disabled list with a sprained right ankle suffered in April. The Tigers' catcher seemed to lose some flexibility at times once he returned. He spent this offseason working to get that health back.

"I spent a lot of the offseason getting healthy and making sure my body was in the best possible shape it could be in, and I feel great," McCann said at TigerFest last week. "I feel 100 percent healthy. I feel like I'm in the best shape of my life, so I'm looking forward to spring."

Fitness has never been a great worry with McCann, whose offseason workouts have been strong. This winter, though, the 26-year-old was looking for more than strength.

"I changed my routine a little bit this year," McCann said. "I didn't quite push the same amount of weight in the weight room. I focused a lot more on mobility and flexibility and lighter weight and more reps, just because you get to a point where strength is strength, but you have to find a way to make sure your body can handle a 162-game-plus season. And for me, keeping my weight down and limber is most important."

McCann's RBI single

Defensively, McCann's numbers were up and down from his stellar rookie campaign of 2015. He threw out 45 percent of would-be basestealers, compared to 41 percent a year earlier, and nearly doubled his double-play total from five to nine. At the same time, he followed up his errorless rookie season with four miscues in '16, and had four passed balls in 99 games compared with three over 112 games two years ago.

Offensively, he saw his doubles total halved to nine and legged out one triple compared to five the year before. That said, he suffered an overall drop as a hitter that included a marked drop in opposite-field extra-base hits. He hit one double and one triple to right field in 2016, according to data from Statcast™, compared with seven doubles toward the right-field corner in '15.

Manager Brad Ausmus wasn't pinning anything to injury factors at season's end.

"I didn't see any indication that the ankle was bothering him, but that doesn't mean it didn't," Ausmus said during baseball's Winter Meetings in December. "I can't really answer that part of it. I think the most valuable thing he got out of 2015 is what he learned both behind the plate and as a hitter. I still think he's going to be an outstanding catcher for a long time. But it's not easy being a big league catcher on a team that's expected to win, and then trying to learn the league and how to call a game all at the same time."

McCann will have some familiar help this season with Alex Avila's return to back him up.

"I'm real excited to have Alex back," McCann said. "Phenomenal guy, phenomenal teammate, phenomenal clubhouse guy. I think he fits really well with the team we have, and really he's the main addition to the team [this offseason]. He's just a calming presence in the clubhouse with a veteran status. I learned a lot from him."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for 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.