KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Manager Rick Renteria didn’t announce his Opening Day lineup, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if newcomer James McCann gets the nod at catcher over Welington Castillo against the Royals.
Opening Day starter Carlos Rodon established a good rapport with McCann, the former Tiger signed to a one-year deal in the offseason, during spring training. He was behind the plate for most of Rodon’s starts.
Renteria wants all pitchers to be compatible with whoever is catching. Against the speedy Royals, it won’t hurt to have McCann’s strong arm behind the plate.
McCann, meanwhile, faded offensively in the last week of spring training after a hot start but still finished with a .289 average and one home run after one of his worst seasons. He batted .220/.267/.314 during his fourth full year with the Tigers in 2018 and came to camp with a more comfortable, looser, relaxed batting stance.
“The results were there, but it’s a process in spring training and throughout the season,” McCann said. “It’s about putting the barrel on the ball.
“I made a few minor adjustments, tweaks, and that’s the name of the game. You live and you learn. I took some of my failures from last year and addressed them.’’
Who’s on first?
Jose Abreu got more time at first base than Yonder Alonso in their first-base/designated-hitter job share this spring. Neither one is fond of the DH role, and both have played much more first base than DH in their careers.
“I don’t see a problem; I want to be flexible with both,” Renteria said. “Yonder allows us a few more days to give ‘Pito’ more days at the DH slot, get him off his legs for a full game. It’s something he’s always fought me about, which is natural. But Yonder is the same way; he wants to play, too. We’ll find the best mix to keep them both rolling.”
Flexibility in relief
Renteria named Alex Colome, who saved 37 games in 2016 and 47 games in 2017, his closer but will go to him before the ninth inning, if and when it’s necessary, he said.
“There will be moments where we use a guy in the key situation earlier than we thought,” Renteria said. “But all things being equal, if we can lay them out to take care of the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth, we’d love to do that. That’s what we’re looking to do.
“Colome, I hope he’s closing most of them out, but I’m not limiting myself to using him in a moment that might be key to keeping us in a particular place, as well. Bullpen usage has evolved but having [Kelvin] Herrera and Colome in the back end, it’s nice to have.’’
Say it right
Opening Day is a good time to clarify pronunciations of names: Dylan Covey (COH-vee), Adam Engel (Angle), Leury (lay-OH-ree) Garcia, Eloy (eh-LOY) Jimenez (he-MEN-ez), Yoan (yoe-AHN) Moncada (mon-KAH-duh), Daniel Palka (PAUL-kuh), Yolmer (YOL-mare) Sanchez, Michael Kopech (KOE-peck), Luis Robert (RAH-bert).