McCann at first comes back to bite Yanks

July, 26, 2014
Jul 26
6:00
PM ET
NEW YORK -- The issue Saturday wasn't whether Brian McCann is comfortable in New York. He may be, he may not be, but that wasn't the question after the New York Yankees' 6-4 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.

Whatever McCann thinks of New York, he didn't come here to play first base. He was willing to go there when the Yankees asked, willing to help out on a team that constructed a roster with an injury-prone starter (Mark Teixeira) and no other true first baseman.

[+] EnlargeBrian McCann
AP Photo/Bill KostrounBrian McCann homered on Saturday, but made big mistakes in the field.
And this week, with Teixeira nursing what the Yankees still call a mild lat strain (and with Kelly Johnson on the disabled list), the Yankees have fielded a lineup with Francisco Cervelli catching and with McCann playing more first base than he had ever played in his life.

For four days, it wasn't a problem. In fact, it may have been a help, as Cervelli hit, McCann did fine at first and the Yankees won four straight.

But if you keep playing players out of position, you're also going to get games like Saturday's, games where the key moments are going to find McCann and leave him and the Yankees badly exposed.

Sure enough, with the score tied in the seventh inning, the game found McCann. It wasn't pretty, and by the end of the day, the Yanks' four-game winning streak (and their 17-game home winning streak over the Blue Jays) was over.

Toronto had runners at second and third with nobody out, but when Dioner Navarro hit a ground ball to McCann, the Blue Jays were ready to hand the Yankees a gift. Melky Cabrera broke off third base and stopped, and when he tried to go back to the bag, he realized that Jose Bautista (the runner at second) was already on his way there.

McCann froze. He wasn't sure whether to throw to third or to run at Bautista or to simply tag the bag and ensure an out by retiring Navarro. So he did nothing. Everyone was safe, and before the inning ended, Cabrera would score the run that put the Blue Jays ahead for good.

"It's the first time I've seen it from that angle," said McCann, who before Saturday had started all of six professional games at first base (all this season). "I wish I could have slowed the game down. The game sped up on me, and I couldn't make the play."

He couldn't, and he didn't. And to make things worse, when Dan Johnson hit a one-out looper that fell in front of second baseman Brian Roberts, McCann made contact with Roberts as Roberts was trying to field the ball. It's hard to know for sure whether McCann prevented Roberts from making a play and throwing the ball home to cut off the run (Roberts said he wasn't sure), but it was easy to see that, once again, an inexperienced first baseman was in the wrong spot and cost the Yankees.

"He's extremely inexperienced over there," manager Joe Girardi admitted. "Sometimes you have to put players at different positions, and you live with the results. There could be a play they've never seen before."

This was a choice the Yankees made, first when they constructed this roster and then when they decided to wait what will end up being a full week with Teixeira on the active roster but unable to play. Teixeira, out since last Sunday, is scheduled to try to swing a bat Sunday morning, but his return to the lineup remains uncertain.

In the meantime, McCann is a first baseman. It keeps his bat in the lineup as well as Cervelli's (McCann hit a two-run homer Saturday, and Cervelli reached base three times), but it risks what happened in the seventh inning.

And whatever McCann was feeling, watching him play first base in that inning was certainly uncomfortable.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Masahiro Tanaka
WINS ERA SO IP
13 2.77 141 136
OTHER LEADERS
BAJ. Ellsbury .271
HRB. McCann 23
RBIB. McCann 75
RB. Gardner 87
OPSB. Gardner .749
ERAH. Kuroda 3.71
SOH. Kuroda 146