It was a running storyline in spring training, and after last night’s win, it was brought up again: Exactly how much of the Yankees early pitching success is due to Brian McCann?
“He’s awesome when he’s behind the plate,” David Phelps said. “But one of the biggest things that I love about him is that (after) we finish the game, he comes in and he talks to me about, this is why I called this pitch, this is what we’re trying to do. That’s so big, especially for a young guy like myself. He’s caught so many good pitchers that have such good stuff, he knows what he wants to do and he knows what we need to be doing. It just makes it so much easier for me that I can just go out there and follow him and have faith in him.”
I believe I wrote it in spring training, and I’ll write it again: No one should expect a team’s pitching staff to openly throw its catcher under the bus. Things have to be pretty extreme for pitchers to openly say they distrust or dislike their catcher, so hearing a guy like Phelps say nice things about McCann isn’t surprising or unusual. But since February, the Yankees pitchers have generally gone out of their way to praise McCann’s efforts, and they usually have stories and examples to backup their claims.
“I think it’s testimony to the work that he put in,” Joe Girardi said. “He put a lot of work in. As soon as he signed, he asked for video. We sent him video and he looked at our pitchers. You can get an idea from video, but really until you get back there, you don’t have a great idea. He went to work on the relationship part of it. He went to work on the type of stuff that they had. I know that he’s continuing to learn our staff, but he’s put a lot of work in.”
Phelps talked about McCann sitting on the floor in the spring clubhouse trying to get to know his pitchers. I can’t remember who said it in spring training, but I believe it was one of the pitchers who talked about McCann trying to spend time with guys away from the field as well. He seems prepared, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard a pitcher talk about his catcher making a point of explaining his pitch calling decisions after a game.
“That’s part of my job,” McCann said. “I’ve caught some games over the years. I know what works and what doesn’t work in certain situations, and if I can (I want to) pass that on to him. I got a chance to catch Tim Hudson and Kris Medlin, guys with similar stuff to (Phelps) that win 15 ballgames and he’s got that ability. He’s got that stuff.”
The impact of a catcher on a pitching staff is pretty hard to judge from a distance, but the Yankees have nine pitchers with an ERA of 4.15 or better so far this season. One of the few guys with an ERA higher is Phelps, who’s WHIP is just 1.00.
“To be honest with you, these are great pitchers,” McCann said. “I’m glad they say those nice words, but at the same time, the pitcher gets the outs and these guys have good stuff. Phelps came in tonight throwing everything he had, spotting all of it up. Pineda was awesome. I put my time in to learn these guys and every day is better.”
Associated Press photos