Detroit — You had to know James McCann was going to at least try to distract his old battery mate when he got on second base in the seventh inning Monday night.
Nobody understands the depths of Justin Verlander’s sign-stealing paranoia better than McCann. Go back and watch some of Verlander’s starts in Progressive Field in Cleveland if you want to get a taste of it.
McCann, at times, would have to change the signs constantly throughout a game. You would need a calculator to count the head shakes and mound visits.
The Tigers were down a run, 3-2 in the seventh inning when McCann singled with one out and advanced to second base when Dawel Lugo reached on a throwing error. As JaCoby Jones stepped into the box, McCann began to take long looks in Astros catcher Martin Maldonado as he was giving the pitch signs to Verlander.
“I am sure Ver was like, ‘Man, I know McCann knows my signs,’” McCann said, with a chuckle. “But he didn’t really give me enough pitches to be able to pick up the signs. I was just guessing what he was going to throw.”
Still, Verlander did call Maldonado out to the mound twice with McCann on second base.
“I was just making head motions and doing stuff,” McCann said. “Just trying to do anything I could to get him thinking, even a little bit, about something other than executing the pitch. Maybe he’d make a mistake.”
Verlander did not break focus. He struck out Jones and then Jeimer Candelario to end the inning, leaving McCann stranded at second.
“He was?” Verlander said Tuesday when told that McCann was trying to distract him. “I didn’t even notice.”