Yankees' Brian McCann starts at first base for first time in his career
ST. LOUIS - Before it spiraled into more of a story than it already was, Joe Girardi wanted to be clear about Brian McCann's position switch.
"I wouldn't make too much of this today," Girardi said before Wednesday night's game. "I'm not looking at this as an option going forward right now. I still consider him my everyday catcher. I'm not really thinking much past today. But as I've said, sometimes as a manager you have to do some things you don't necessarily envision."
Because Mark Teixeira is unavailable with inflammation in his right wrist -- "nothing's really changed much," the first baseman said of the wrist Wednesday -- Girardi started McCann, the club's everyday catcher, at first base for the first time in his career.
McCann, who last started a game there in high school, finished three games at first earlier this season.
Although he hasn't taken "a whole lot" of grounders at first dating back to spring training, he did not seem worried.
"I feel comfortable going out there for a game and doing the job that needs to be done," he said.
So was he excited about the opportunity?
"Yeah, why not?" he smiled.
McCann said he would be using Kelly Johnson's first baseman's glove and leaning on the dugout and second baseman Brian Roberts "for advice telling me where to go."
Girardi, who earlier in the season dismissed the idea of McCann playing first, said Wednesday's decision stemmed more from wanting to give slumping rookie Yangervis Solarte a rest. Solarte, whose performance in spring and then the first part of the season made him the everyday third baseman, entered in a 6-for-31 slide, including going hitless in his last 13 at-bats.
"I wanted to give Solo a day off, too. He's really been scuffling lately and he's played every day," Girardi said. "So I felt it was in his best interest to give him a day."
Girardi added later if Solarte had been going well, he would have started at third and Johnson at first.
It was not, Girardi said, a result of Johnson not looking especially fluid at first in his previous starts there this season, including on Tuesday night when he committed a costly error in a four-run third inning that put the Yankees in a 4-0 hole.
"I know people look at yesterday but he gets hit same time he's trying to catch the ball," Girardi said in describing Tuesday's error. "I know the other days he's struggled a little bit, but this is more the product of I think Solo needing a day."
Johnson instead was the pick to play third Wednesday, part of an overall lineup shift for Girardi. Derek Jeter, who started the previous eight games of this nine-game trip, received the day off, replaced by Brendan Ryan.
Rookie John Ryan Murphy, who has played well in his limited opportunities this season, started behind the plate in place of McCann, batting fifth.
"He's been playing extremely well," Girardi said of Murphy, who came in hitting .378 with a .395 on-base percentage in 16 games. "The other thing is Brian's caught a lot of games here [on this trip], some extra-inning games, some long days. And so with the way Murph's played, I felt this was probably our best lineup."
As for the potential "risk" of putting McCann at an unfamiliar position, Girardi smiled.
"I think it's something he can handle," he said. "I mean, you could argue it's riskier playing behind the plate than at first base. Foul tips and all the things he endures."