'Good change of scenery:' James McCann back at Comerica after Tigers breakup

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
New White Sox catcher James McCann celebrates a home run in the rain this month.

Detroit — It was painful, of course it was.

James McCann grew up in the Tigers organization. Drafted in 2011, he broke into the major leagues in 2014 and was the club’s starting catcher from 2015 through 2018. So, yes, when the Tigers opted not to tender him a contract last winter, in his second year of arbitration, it hurt.

“It’s not the way you’d draw it up,” he said Thursday morning, taking a break from his pregame work in the visitor’s weight room at Comerica Park ahead of the start of a four-game series with the White Sox. “It’s not the way you foresee this happening. But it’s a business and the business side obviously trumped everything.

“What are you going to do?”

More: When a 'mistake' works like gold: Spencer Turnbull's cutter continues to baffle

Industry estimates were that McCann, who earned $2.3 million in 2018, would get close to $3.5 million if his case went before an arbitrator. Those estimates last year were generally on the high side. Still, the Tigers felt Grayson Greiner and John Hicks were capable of handling the catching duties, and prospect Jake Rogers was maybe a year or two away.

So, they let McCann hit the free agent market. Two months later, he signed a one-year deal for $2.5 million with the White Sox.

“It was a good change of scenery,” he said. “The hardest part was just the unknown for two months in the off-season. That was hard. But here we are now and things happen for a reason. I am happy where I am now.”

McCann, splitting the catching duties with Wellington Castillo, is hitting .276 (8 for 29) with a .344 on-base percentage in eight games. He also has a home run and, wait for it, a stolen base. Uncharacteristically, though, he’s only thrown out one of six base-stealers.

“Classy guy,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said when asked about McCann. “Real hard-nosed guy who works every day. He took a beating. What do they say – takes a licking and keeps on ticking? That’s him.

“He was a really good leader in this clubhouse. I am glad he’s playing.

"I hope he doesn’t hurt us today.”

More: Frustration, injuries, hitting woes piling up as Tigers drop 5th straight

A reaction to every action

Gardenhire watched the home run White Sox Tim Anderson hit against the Royals the other day, the one that triggered a bench-clearing fracas.

“The reaction to your action has always taken care of itself in baseball,” Gardenhire said. “He hits a home run then turns and throws the bat in front of the catcher, and the pitcher is staring at him – you are probably going to get a reaction out of that.

“And that’s what happened.”

Gardenhire said a more experienced player might’ve been cut some slack for that, but Anderson hasn’t been in the game long enough.

It was inevitable he would get plunked in his next at-bat, and he did.

“I saw it,” he said. “I saw why (he did it). I understand it. If it happened to us, we’d probably react pretty close to the same way.”

More: Daily recap of Tigers' minor leagues (Updated: April 17)

Around the horn

Right-hander Joe Jimenez has allowed four runs and six walks in 6.2 innings this season and has been temporarily bumped out of the set-up role. But Gardenhire made it clear Thursday there was nothing physically wrong with Jimenez.

“Andy (pitching coach Rick Anderson) had a long talk with him today and it’s all confidence,” he said. “He’s just misfiring a little bit. We’re going to try to put him in better situations right now to let him get through it. … We’re going to let him find himself and then get him back where he’s supposed to be.”

... Tigers pitcher Michael Fulmer, out for the season after Tommy John surgery, announced some happy news Thursday. Wife Kelsey gave birth to their first child, a boy, Miles Brooks Fulmer, who weighed in at 7 pounds, 8 ounces.

White Sox at Tigers

First pitch: 7:10 Friday, Comerica Park, Detroit

TV/radio: FSD/97.1


LHP Carlos Rodon (2-2, 3.27), White Sox: He can throw six different pitches, but his slider is the money pitch. Opponents are hitting .122 with 21 strikeouts against that pitch, which he throws at 84 mph, usually off his 91-92 mph four-seam fastball. He has a 47 percent whiff rate with his slider.

RHP Jordan Zimmermann (0-2, 4.29), Tigers: Two superb starts followed by two rough ones. The common denominator in the bad starts — besides chilly temperatures — was a flat slider. Zimmermann spent time between starts fiddling with his mechanics, trying to get back to the fluidity he showed in the first two outings.


Twitter: @cmccosky