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McCann gives Tigers bigger frame behind plate

New father of twin boys hits weight room during offseason
MLB.com @beckjason

LAKELAND, Fla. -- James McCann didn't go into the offseason looking to bulk up. He was working out every morning, going to the hospital every day to see his wife and newborn twins, and grabbing food when he could in between stops.

"I worked out at a new place this offseason, different workout routine," said McCann, who moved with his wife to Nashville shortly after last season ended. "And I ate a lot of [restaurant] salads. That was literally our go-to meal on the way to the hospital."

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LAKELAND, Fla. -- James McCann didn't go into the offseason looking to bulk up. He was working out every morning, going to the hospital every day to see his wife and newborn twins, and grabbing food when he could in between stops.

"I worked out at a new place this offseason, different workout routine," said McCann, who moved with his wife to Nashville shortly after last season ended. "And I ate a lot of [restaurant] salads. That was literally our go-to meal on the way to the hospital."

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In that sense, he was like a lot of new dads who have to balance career and home, except that his career involves squatting behind the plate, throwing to bases and swinging a bat nearly every day.

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"I tried to eat as clean as I could," he said. "With the amount of time we spent in the hospital, it was tough at times. But I also got after it pretty good in the weight room in the mornings before I headed to the hospital."

His weight-room work was arguably a stress release for him. He knew he was likely going to be a bigger presence in the revamped Tigers lineup. He did not intend to take that literally.

"I honestly didn't weigh myself until the middle of January," he said. "And when I got on a scale for the first time, I thought it was broken. I'd put on 25 pounds."

McCann was listed as 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds in last year's media guide. He's listed at 225 pounds in this year's version. At first glance, a good part of that appears to be muscle.

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By now, the photos of McCann holding his twin sons, one in each arm, have circulated widely online. And the babies are relatively small, having been born premature. But McCann also has noticeably bigger, more muscular arms.

"I look in the mirror and I'm like, 'I don't look like I've put on bad weight,'" McCann said. "My goal going into the offseason was to feel good. I did push it in the weight room, pushing weight a little bit more than I had in the past. I guess the results were there."

How that plays into his season will be intriguing to watch. McCann is coming off career highs of 13 home runs, a .415 slugging percentage and a .733 OPS last season. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of that damage came off fastballs and sliders, with a lot of home runs pulled to left, a lot of doubles into the opposite-field gap and some doubles pulled down the line.

Behind the plate, catchers adding weight is nothing new. Most catchers, especially those playing close to every day, lose weight over the course of the season. Many try to prepare for it by adding weight in the offseason or combat it by trying to maintain weight as a season goes along.

"You do worry about guys getting too bulked up," new Tigers coach Steve Liddle said. "But also, extra weight can help you over the course of the season because sometimes you can lose up to five or six pounds."

McCann gained playing time down the stretch last season after Alex Avila was traded to the Cubs, but he finished strong, batting .291 (59-for-203) with a .759 OPS after the All-Star break.

McCann has caught at least 100 games in each of his three full seasons in the Majors. His first-half timeshare with Avila last year prevented him from setting career highs in at-bats and innings caught.

New Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire has indicated he'll look to keep McCann from wearing down, whether he carries two or three catchers on the Opening Day roster. With Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez looking healthy, John Hicks' best chance at at-bats is likely behind the plate.

McCann's start Monday against the Orioles was his fifth day in a row catching, including Jordan Zimmermann's Minor League start Sunday on the back fields at Tigertown.

"The big thing is forcing my body to get ready," McCann said. "Nine innings, the extra three or four innings a game isn't as tough as getting your body up for a game, and that's really the big thing. That's what I've been able to do, and I feel healthy. I feel great."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers, James McCann