ANAHEIM, Calif. — Brian McCann’s diminished role, from starting catcher to occasional catcher and mostly designated hitter, came about quickly.
He’s added another role to that: mentor to the man who replaced him behind the plate two weeks ago, Gary Sanchez.
McCann still has plenty of professional pride and belief in himself as an everyday catcher, but he remains OK with all of it.
Has it been a difficult adjustment? “Not at all,” McCann said after Sunday’s 2-0 loss to the Angels. “He’s as good as advertised. He’s extremely hard-working, so not at all.”
McCann went 0-for-3 with a walk Sunday as the DH, dropping him to 8-for-40 since being relegated to primary DH duties. He said he’s “100 percent” behind tutoring Sanchez, 23, who is hitting .386 (22-for-57) with six homers and 12 RBIs in 15 games since his call-up.
“He’s fun to watch play,” said McCann, 32, who has two years left on his five-year, $85-million deal and is a strong candidate to be dealt in the offseason. “He’s got a ceiling that’s extremely high . . . He’s going to hit middle-of-the-order and catch for a long time.”
Of his daily preparation as a DH, McCann said it’s been an ongoing process. “I’m getting used to it,” he said. “That’s all you know is catching. It’s just a new routine. I just have to find a routine that works for me.”
Sanchez, whom McCann called the best young catcher he’s seen “since I’ve been in the big leagues,” had a relatively quiet day Sunday. He went 0-for-3 but did draw a one-out walk against JC Ramirez in the eighth to put runners on first and second. The rally ended as Didi Gregorius struck out and Starlin Castro grounded out.
More impressive, Sanchez again displayed his cannon arm, throwing out Mike Trout trying to steal in the bottom of the eighth. Although he bounced the throw, Castro picked it out of the dirt, and the play at second was not close.
“Again, he did a really good job with our staff,” Joe Girardi said of Sanchez. “He continues to do good things.”
Before the game, Girardi said having veteran players in the clubhouse embracing their roles as mentors has been a significant positive. Mark Teixeira, who started at first base Sunday but essentially is sharing the position with Tyler Austin, is doing the same.
“Tex has been great,” Girardi said. “I’ve been seeing him talk to [Austin] about situations, about things to do . . . I think it’s really important because when they’re willing to mentor, it really helps our young players. And it does a lot for the clubhouse, too. Both of them have been really good.”
Girardi said it speaks to the unselfishness of McCann and Teixeira that the transition has not been awkward.
“I think it’s difficult if the players are about [themselves],’’ Girardi said. “But if the players are about the team and winning, I think they buy in and they understand and they do their job.”