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McCann draws kudos for sniffing out possible sign-stealer

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Houston – The Tigers were leading by three runs in the ninth inning in Kansas City Wednesday and the Royals had runners on first and second with one out.

James McCann, here speaking with pitcher Daniel Norris, stared down baserunner Alex Rios at second when he felt Rios was trying to steal signs Wednesday.

Catcher James McCann noticed Alex Rios was staring at him intently from second base, focusing completely on the signs he was flashing to pitcher Bruce Rondon.

McCann called timeout and walked out past Rondon toward second base and glared at Rios.

Message delivered. Busted.

"If you can relay signs and get away with it, good for you," McCann said. "But if you get caught..."

McCann didn't finish the sentence.

"Was he doing it? I have my suspicions," he said. "No one will ever know except for him. But I do know he wasn't able to relay them beyond that trip to the mound."

McCann continues to master the nuances of the game and the catcher position far beyond his major league service time.

Manager Brad Ausmus, who caught for 18 big league seasons, was impressed.

"I don't know if Mac knew for sure Rios was doing it," he said. "I think he was making Rios aware he was watching him. If the runner knows that the catcher is focusing on him and they are stealing signs, there's a good chance he'll back off."

Which Rios apparently did. Rondon struck out Drew Butera, who was up when McCann went to the mound, and retired Alcides Escobar on a fly to right.

"I just stared at him," McCann said. "Not knowing if he was really doing it or not, but my job is to make sure it didn't continue if it was happening."

Ausmus had his own methods. He said if he thought a runner was trying to pick up his sign, he'd wait until the runner turned his head to see where the outfielders and the middle infielders were positioned.

"As soon as he turned his head, I'd start the sequence," Ausmus said. "That way he could never pick it up."