Kansas City, Mo. — You know James McCann is getting antsy.
There he was before the game Thursday, out on the field going through the pregame stretching routine with the Tigers regulars.
“Feeling pretty good,” McCann said Wednesday. “Just keep progressing. Keep pushing it.”
McCann, the Tigers starting catcher, has been on the disabled list since April 12 when he sprained his right ankle. He won’t be eligible to come off the DL until next Tuesday, and the Tigers aren’t ready to make any assumptions about whether or not he’ll be ready to play at that point.
McCann, though, is doing everything in his power to make sure he will be.
“I think it’s better than what most people expected,” he said. “But it’s right on par with what I planned out for myself.”
He has already caught pitches throwing by a pitching machine in the cage. He threw long toss from a squatting position. He’s hit soft toss in the cage. He’s getting there.
“I have to get to the point where I can run,” he said. “I haven’t run full speed by any means. I am just slowly getting back into baseball activity.”
The question will be whether or not the Tigers feel the need to send him on a rehab assignment in Toledo.
“It depends on how long we think it’ll take to get ready,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “If it’s just 15 days, I wouldn’t think he’d need to. But if it’s closer to four weeks he might need to play a few games.”
Ausmus quickly dismissed any talk of moving struggling Justin Upton out of the No. 2 hole in the lineup.
“He’s got a pretty good track record over the course of 500 plate appearances,” he said. “He’s put up pretty consistent numbers. I am not, after two weeks of games, changing the game plan because he hasn’t hit the way he normally does in two weeks.
“That’s what in this game they call panicking.”
Upton has gone 5-for-31 on this road trip, and he’s hitting .241 on the season. Worse, he’s struck out 24 times with just three walks.
“I think he’s still just getting his feet under him,” Ausmus said.
Ausmus also waved off the notion that it would be better to move Jose Iglesias to the No. 2 hole, because he’s hitting .326 with a .408 on-base percentage.
“It’s such a numbers-based game now,” he said. “People think if someone is hitting .350 in the eight-hole, he’ll hit .350 in the two-hole — and it’s not true. Maybe part of the reason the guy is hitting .350 in the eight-hole is because they’re not paying as much attention to him there.
“He’s down in the order and he’s very comfortable there. All of a sudden you put him in the spotlight of the two-hole and he puts more pressure on himself and he’s not a .350 hitter anymore.”
Anthony Gose has had good at-bats against Royals starting pitcher Edinson Volquez — 5-for-11 with a double and home run. But he wasn’t in the lineup Thursday.
Tyler Collins, who also has had success against Volquez (3-for-8), got the start in center field.
“Collins can’t be sitting on the bench all the time,” Ausmus said.
But there’s more to it. Gose has been fighting himself at the plate. He was 1-for-8 in this series and 4-for-22 on the road trip. The frustration boiled over in the fifth inning Wednesday when he slammed his helmet and bat to the ground after a second straight strikeout.
“He was a little frustrated with his at-bats,” Ausmus said. “Sometimes it’s better to just take a breath. … Hitting is a frustrating thing. There’s not a hitter here who hasn’t at times felt he was on the brink of insanity because of the way things were going at the plate.
“It’s not just the failure. It’s that you feel you are letting your teammates down.”