McCann happy to stay back

March, 14, 2014
Mar 14
11:53
AM ET
TAMPA, Fla. -- Up until Wednesday night, Brian McCann thought he was going to Panama along with most of his teammates this weekend, and having never been there, was looking forward to the trip.

Then, he was told by Joe Girardi that the Yankees had decided they were better off if he stayed home and did his homework instead of enjoying dinner with Mariano Rivera -- whom he said he had never met despite facing him a few times -- and seeing the Panama Canal.

McCann, who so far seems like the ultimate team guy, agreed it was a good idea.

"I think it gives me a chance to see more guys if I stayed back and I think it just made more sense to stay back here," McCann said this morning in the clubhouse while preparing to catch David Phelps against the Minnesota Twins this afternoon.

But the real reason Girardi left McCann behind is because he wants him to catch Masahiro Tanaka on Sunday against the Braves and Hiroki Kuroda on Monday in Bradenton.

“I’m going to start catching back-to-back, so I need to see everybody multiple times,” McCann said. "I have to. I need to. It’s a big deal to see them.”

But he was also quick to add, "I know their stuff and I know what they like to do. If the season started tomorrow I’d be comfortable calling a game for both of them. Just two more times will probably get me more acclimated to them and we’ll be ready to roll."

Girardi's -- and no doubt, GM Brian Cashman's -- sudden decision to swap out McCann for Francisco Cervelli fueled speculation the Yankees were looking to trade Cervelli and wanted to give McCann a crash course in Tanaka, who has thrown almost exclusively to Cervelli. But team sources told ESPNDeportes' Marly Rivera, who is in Panama, that the Yankees have had no conversations with any other team regarding a Cervelli deal.

It could simply be that as the everyday catcher, which generally means five days a week, McCann will have to be intimately familiar with everyone on the Yankees' pitching staff, including, and maybe especially, Tanaka.

As a result, McCann says he has been taking work home with him in the evenings, studying tapes not only of the Yankees' starting staff, but of AL East hitters to get to know their tendencies, strengths and weaknesses.

One thing McCann has not studied is the Japanese language. Despite catching Kenshin Kawakami for two seasons in Atlanta, McCann said he hasn't picked up too many Japanese words, although he says communication with non-English speaking players has never been a problem.

"Whatever language they speak, it’s still baseball," he said. "Everybody knows the key words to get the job done. We all know, they all know fastball, curveball, split. We’re good."

McCann will get Saturday off -- he is not on the travel roster for the game against the Orioles -- but will go back-to-back for the first time this spring Sunday and Monday.
Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Masahiro Tanaka
WINS ERA SO IP
12 2.51 135 129
OTHER LEADERS
BAJ. Ellsbury .271
HRM. Teixeira 21
RBIJ. Ellsbury 67
RB. Gardner 81
OPSB. Gardner .770
ERAH. Kuroda 3.81
SOM. Tanaka 135