Brian McCann has a lot of friends in the Braves clubhouse, and he has a lot of mentors in the Braves organization. On the back fields of this spring training complex is where he began his professional career, and so he had every reason to want to be here today. There’s only one reason that, he said, stood out to him.
“I didn’t need to be here, but I needed to catch Nova,” he said. “That’s the reason I came. I needed to catch Nova again.”
After basically a month in the Yankees clubhouse, McCann seems to have already established himself as a leader of the pitching staff. Past success demanded respect, but he’s gone out of his way to earn respect first-hand.
“I knew he was a very good player, but you see his relationship with the pitchers,” Joe Girardi said. “He’s very active, proactive, and I never really knew that about him. He goes out of his way to do things with our staff, to get to know them not just on the field. I think that’s a really good idea. … A lot of times you get away from the ballpark and you can casually talk about things and you can learn a lot about people.”
This isn’t only coming from Girardi, and it’s not based on one line from McCann. Pitcher after pitcher seems to be going out of his way this spring to talk about how much they trust McCann behind the plate, and how much they like him as a partner on the field.
“We have really good communication, not only the day that you pitch,” Ivan Nova said. “Tomorrow, I know for sure that we’re going to talk in between (starts). He’s a veteran catcher. He knows what to do. He has a way to keep you in the game. If he sees that I’m a little bit off the game, don’t be afraid to call me and tell me. I’m not going to feel bad, you know? That’s what he’s been doing.”
· Regular workout for Jacoby Ellsbury today. He’s still not going on tomorrow’s road trip, and Girardi wouldn’t say whether Friday is a possibility. It seems doubtful he would be asked to travel to Fort Myers on Saturday. “He did some running today, he went through a full practice,” Girardi said. “So if he feels good (tomorrow), we’ll go from there.”
· The first hit Nova allowed this afternoon was a single to right center. Brett Gardner almost got there, but it looked like Alfonso Soriano’s play. He let the ball fall in front of him. Might have been a little bit unfamiliarity with the position coming into play there. Girardi made it clear, though, that Soriano will be expected to play right field this season. “If Carlos (Beltran) was to DH a day, I’d probably throw Soriano in right,” Girardi said.
· And of course, Girardi basically confirmed that Soriano will be the regular DH. “It’s kind of what you think, but sometimes things change,” Soriano said.
· After an 0-for-4 today, Derek Jeter’s average is down to .132 this spring. “My guess is he’s not going to panic either way,” Girardi said. “I think the important thing is that he just feels good, and if he feels good, he’ll be in a good place.”
· Speaking of Jeter, McCann got a really nice ovation in his return to Braves camp, but I honestly think Jeter’s ovation was louder. A lot of Yankees fans in the crowd today.
· When Nova was pulled in the seventh, he and Girardi were laughing on the mound. Nova had to run toward first on the final out, and he was apparently joking that Girardi should have pulled him before the ball was put in play on the right side of the infield. “I told him, why (would) he make me run to first base to take me out?” Nova said. “He said it was Larry’s decision. Larry was laughing. C’mon, man. Don’t make me run to first base and then take me out. It’s a little bit hot outside. I have a little cold. I don’t feel very good. Sometimes you get tired after you run to first base. And (then) they take you out.”
· Box score notes: Big game for Carlos Beltran, who had three hits and two RBI in a 7-0 win against the Braves. … The non-Beltran Yankees had four hits. One each for Zelous Wheeler, Adonis Garcia, Alfonso Soriano and Brian Roberts. Garcia’s hit was a double. He’s hitting .423 this spring. … With Nova pitching so deep into the game, Shane Green, Danny Burawa, Cesar Cabral and Dellin Betances each got only two-thirds of an inning. All were scoreless. Betances walked a guy and allowed a hit.
· Final word goes to Girardi talking about McCann getting to know the pitching staff: “He’s starting to see them a couple of times through the lineup. It’s hard when they throw two innings or three innigns because they might be working on one pitch, or they might not throw all their pitches, but now it’s getting to where he’s seeing them get up to 75, 80 pitches, getting a great idea what they have. Seeing them in the stretch. Seeing them in the windup. Seeing everything he needs to see. And I think that’s real important.”
· Oh yeah, and I was on my friend Mark Feinsand’s podcast this week. Bryan Hoch was there too. And our old friend Pete Abraham. And if none of us will lure you in, maybe you’ll tune in for Dave Robertson.
Associated Press photos