McCann building rapport with Astros pitchers

Veteran catcher plans on extra time behind plate at camp

McCann building rapport with Astros pitchers

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- As he's done in each of his three springs as the manager of the Astros, A.J. Hinch has a station where pitchers get together with catchers and tell them about their arsenal, what they like to throw and their game plan.

Those exercises are a little more important this year for newcomer Brian McCann, who said he will catch more this spring than he usually does to get up to speed on his pitching staff. McCann, acquired in a deal from the Yankees in November, already has studied video of every pitcher on the 40-man roster, but nothing matches getting behind the plate.

"There has been constant communication, especially for a first-year coming in catching a bunch of new guys," McCann said. "It's important to constantly talk because everybody likes something differently, everybody likes the catcher to set up different, everybody likes things different here and there, and you have to talk about it."

McCann's reputation on defense is solid, though his offense sometimes takes center stage. A seven-time All-Star, the 12-year veteran has caught 1,372 games, which is the third-most in baseball since his debut in 2005. In that span, he leads all Major League catchers in home runs (232), extra-base hits (493) and RBIs (842).

"He's been a very good catcher for a lot of years now," said former Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel, who threw to McCann in the bullpen for the first time Friday. "I feel like I already know what he's all about and he knows what I'm about somewhat. We kind of already had a foundation set, but we'll just continue to talk if we need to talk during the bullpens."

Hinch, a former big league catcher, said a catcher sometimes feels like a personal concierge to the pitcher each time he takes the mound.

"The No. 1 relationship on the field that has to stay intact is the pitcher and catcher," Hinch said. "They've got to be on the same page, they've got to be a team. They've got to work together, they've got to battle together. There's going to be some days they agree, some days they disagree, but that chemistry and camaraderie is second to none on the field, in terms of during the competition."

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Astros right-hander Lance McCullers broke into the big leagues with the help of another solid defensive catcher, Jason Castro, and he hopes to have the same level of trust with McCann.

"I'm sure he'll have some different ideas for me," McCullers said. "I think I had the best catcher I could have had in the first couple of years of my career with Jason, to kind of get used to the league and that kind of stuff, but he's moved on and we're really happy for him, grateful to have Brian here and work with [Evan] Gattis and those others guys, as well, to be on the same page."

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.