McCann busy studying Astros' pitching staff

Veteran catcher eager to guide young arms on new team

McCann busy studying Astros' pitching staff

HOUSTON -- When new Astros catcher Brian McCann gets to Spring Training next month, he'll already have an understanding of what each pitcher on the team's 40-man roster has in his arsenal after studying video clips since he was traded in November.

The nuances of learning a new pitching staff are just beginning, however, and there will be plenty to learn for the six weeks the club is in West Palm Beach, Fla. McCann flew to Houston from his hometown of Atlanta on Thursday and appeared on Astroline, the team's weekly radio show, after meeting with the Houston media.

"I haven't been this excited in a long time," McCann said. "The roster is filled with talent, good, young talent. I love the rotation, I love the bullpen. I think it's got a good mix of everything. We'll come together this spring and get it going."

The Astros acquired McCann, 32, from the Yankees in November, adding a veteran presence behind the plate and left-handed bat to the lineup. He batted .242 with 20 homers, 13 doubles, 58 RBIs and 54 walks in 130 games last season for the Yankees, who deemed him expendable following the emergence of rookie Gary Sanchez last year.

In addition to providing offense and leadership, McCann will give guidance to an Astros pitching staff he says is bursting with potential.

"It's kind of where the league is going," he said. "If you don't have great arms, you're going to be left behind. When I got the videos of all the guys, everyone on the 40-man roster, everybody throws mid-90s and everybody knows what they're doing. Everybody has out pitches."

The health of left-hander Dallas Keuchel and right-hander Lance McCullers hold the key to the Astros' success on the mound this year, but there's quality behind that. Collin McHugh has been steady the last few years, and there's depth with Mike Fiers, Joe Musgrove and Charlie Morton, who came through the Braves' system with McCann.

"I love the rotation," McCann said. "I think guys can pitch deep into ballgames, I think guys can make all 32 starts. Health is obviously a big key for any team, but facing these guys over the last couple of years, they've definitely got top-of-the-rotation stuff. Guys know how to pitch and guys know how to get outs."

Like most of his teammates, McCann hasn't won a championship, despite playoff appearances with the Braves (2005, '10, '12-13) and Yankees ('15). He thinks the Astros are poised to contend for a championship this year, a carrot that's driving him to work hard.

"I come to play every night," he said. "I want to win a championship. I'll be 33 years old this year and I've played a long time, and one thing I haven't done is win a championship. When this presented itself to come to Houston, it was a no-brainer."

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.