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Yankees' McCann can do it all

NEW YORK -- They didn't build the new Yankee Stadium for Brian McCann, but they might as well have. The right porch is perfect for his swing.

But early on, a funny thing happened to the Yankees' grand McCann plan.

The Bombers' new backstop entered Saturday having failed to hit a home run in his first 37 at-bats as a Yankee. Sixteen of which were in the Bronx, where he'd managed just one hit, a measly single. McCann was hitting the ball pretty hard, we should note, but shifting defenses helped drop his average to a paltry .162.

Against the Boston Red Sox on Saturday, McCann found the best way to beat that pesky shift: He hit over it, nailing two homers in the New York Yankees' 7-4 win.

"He has hit the ball better than his numbers have indicated," manager Joe Girardi said. "We feel this park is really conducive to him and it showed up today."

Leading off the fourth, McCann crushed the ball into the first row of the second deck. In the sixth, McCann's two-run shot landed in the Yankees' bullpen over the 385-foot sign in right. Both homers were off Red Sox starter John Lackey.

Sung to the tune of the "Can Can," John Sterling bellowed, "Oh, McCann can, yes, McCann can ..."

What McCann can't -- or at least hasn't -- is change his approach for Yankee Stadium. For left-handed power hitters, the right-field fence seems so close they can almost touch it with their bat. It can cause newcomers to change their swing to take advantage.

"It is very nice for left-handed hitters," McCann said with a slight smile.

McCann sounds believable when he says he has not aimed for the short porch. He knows altering his swing will just lead to bad mechanics.

As far as beating the omnipresent shift, there was a point in McCann's career when he tried to combat it. The problem, however, was there's only so much a pull guy can do when the defense is on one side of the field.

"There is a fine line with it," McCann said. "Have I tried? Yeah. I try to work the ball to the whole field. That is the key so they don't shift you, but at the same time, if you get pitched in [you have to pull]."

This winter, the Yankees pulled up their Brinks truck and dropped $85 million over five years on McCann's Atlanta doorstep for his power, as well as his skill behind the plate.

Girardi noticed how McCann helped the Braves' young pitchers mature. McCann is serving a similar role with the Yankees' young relievers, who are without the injured David Robertson and the retired Mariano Rivera.

Brian McCann

Brian McCann

#34 C
New York Yankees

2014 STATS

  • GM11
  • HR2

  • RBI6

  • R3

  • OBP.214

  • AVG.195

"He's amazing," said Shawn Kelley, who picked up the save Saturday. "What he is going to do at the plate speaks for itself. But what he does for our staff. Right now, especially with Robertson out, we are very young down there.

"His leadership back there and the confidence in him to trust us in certain situations and certain counts, that is probably the difference in some of us going out there and doing our job as we should."

In the seventh, McCann took advantage of some weird baseball. With two outs and men on first and third, the Red Sox trailed by two runs. Mike Carp -- with two career steals -- tried to take second. On an 0-2 count, the Red Sox hoped Dellin Betances might bounce one in the dirt.

Instead it was a fastball, and McCann threw Carp out easily, leaving Xander Bogaerts at the plate.

And that's not all he can do: McCann is also one of the best at framing pitches.

"To know that you are going to get a borderline pitch is huge," Kelly said. "The more confidence you have when you are standing on the rubber, the better you are going to perform."

McCann did not seem bothered by not hitting his first homer until Saturday -- nor by finally going deep after 38 at-bats. He is another even-keeled Yankee.

"If it wasn't so early in the season, it wouldn't be that big of a deal because there are probably going to be four or five of them over the course of 162 games," McCann said. "When it is early, everything is magnified."