McCann rested, ready to guide Astros' staff
Veteran backstop excited to help club defend WS title
HOUSTON -- Considering he played an extra month while helping the Astros to the World Series championship, veteran catcher Brian McCann took a month off before he started working out in anticipation for a 2018 season that's rapidly approaching.
McCann will be entering his age-34 season as the Astros' clear-cut starter and veteran rock, who pitcher Lance McCullers proclaimed the team's Most Valuable Player. McCann is eager to eschew Father Time and lead another pitching staff deep into October.
"I'm big on making sure that my body is healed up before I start wearing and tearing and doing weights," McCann said Thursday in a conference call to promote the third annual Diamond Resorts Invitational PGA Tour Champions Challenge Season event he'll play in next week in Orlando, Fla. "When you're a younger player in your early 20s -- and we had a lot of guys that are in the prime of their career that are young and can start throwing around weight sooner -- but playing that extra month, I feel like I just got done. And I look up and six weeks from now we'll be in camp.
"Winning the World Series, you can't wait until you get down there with the other guys and get started. Last year was such a memorable year and things that we'll never forget, but at the same time, once we get to Spring Training, we're going to turn the page and get ready for 2018."
McCann, traded to the Astros in November 2016, hit .241 with 18 homers and 62 RBIs in 97 regular-season games last year. He spent time on the disabled list in May with a concussion and in August with knee soreness, but was a workhorse during the postseason, catching all but one inning.
Last year, McCann split time at catcher with Evan Gattis, who could get more at-bats at designated hitter this year. Astros manager A.J. Hinch said last month the club could carry three catchers, which could open the door for Max Stassi, who's out of options. FanRag Sports reported last week the Astros were interested in free-agent catcher Jonathan Lucroy and Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto, who could be had via trade. Houston signed catcher Tim Federowicz to a Minor League deal last month as well.
McCann is signed through this season, with the Astros inheriting a 2019 club option that will vest if he totals 1,000 plate appearances in 2017-18, catches 90 games in '18 and isn't on the DL to begin the '18 season. McCann had only 399 plate appearances in '17, so the option is unlikely to vest, which means the Astros will soon need to find a new starting catcher.
As for this year, McCann is bullish on Stassi, the 26-year-old who's played 44 games with the Astros over the past five seasons. The Astros are touting the changes Stassi has made at the plate.
"Stassi changed the way he hits," McCann said. "He reaped the benefits from that this year. His swing looks really good, he's made great strides behind the plate. Gattis did an amazing job last year. There's going to be innings for everybody, at-bats for everybody and we'll see how it plays out. I really like the catching we have."