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James McCann gets long-awaited start behind the plate for Tigers

Brad Ausmus has been hesitant to start James McCann, but the Tigers could wait no longer with Alex Avila out of the lineup for another day.

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

DETROIT — The wait to see James McCann behind the plate is over.

Manager Brad Ausmus would have preferred to wait longer for McCann to make a start, but with Alex Avila being kept out of the lineup for another day and Bryan Holaday having caught three lengthy games in a row, the Tigers couldn't afford to prolong the process any longer.

Saturday's game pitting Tigers lefty David Price against Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner was just about a good a time as any to give McCann the reigns. If anything, it's one of the more ideal situations Ausmus could have been presented with, given the limited options.

"He's going to be just fine," Alex Avila said. "Watching him, being around him, he's a good player, he's got a good head on his shoulders, so he'll be just fine." (h/t Dana Wakiji, FOX Sports Detroit)

Avila was symptom-free all day Friday, but because of his history with concussions and lingering symptoms in the past, the Tigers medical staff felt it was best to give Avila at least one more day before allowing him back in the game.

It's a wise decision, given how well Avila's bell got run on Tuesday. Pennant race aside, the Tigers need Avila and if he's going to continue to be a useful asset, throwing him back into a game too quickly would not serve any productive purpose.

Bullpen sessions were only going to accomplish so much and at some point McCann would need to learn on the job. McCann admitted it's "nerve-wracking" to catch Price, and hitting against Bumgarner is no easy task either. But Ausmus believes McCann is up to the task, as does the McCann, who is trying to treat his first big league start like any other game.

"Which one's tougher? I mean, hitting's always tougher," Ausmus said. "But Bumgarner's very good, obviously. Hides the ball, attacks the hitters. McCann's got a reputation really, as being very good behind the plate, taking a lot of pride in calling a good game and the defensive side of catching. So I'm not overly concerned about that. With David being in command of what's going on, I don't think it'll be an issue. And they'll go over the scouting report before the game."

If the Giants had started a right-handed starter, Avila probably would have caught Price, but because Bumbarner is a lefty and McCann feasts off them while Avila struggles, Ausmus thought better of allowing Avila to start.

McCann watched Price on TV while growing up and in college, but that was about as much knowledge of the lefty that he had before catching him during a couple of bullpen sessions, so he said he's completely comfortable with letting Price call the shots.

Still, the sooner McCann breaks the ice on the field, the better. He's doing just that Saturday with his parents, fiancee and uncle in attendance on a cloudy and breezy, mid-70s day at Comerica Park.

"David knows what he's doing so I'm not worried about that," Ausmus said. "Doc (Bryan Holaday) caught a four-hour, three and a half-hour, four-hour game the other night, two nights ago, and then caught into Saturday morning last night. They've got Bumgarner going, who's a tough left-handed pitcher. Alex (Avila) could probably play today if it was a righty but he's had the concussion symptoms the previous few days, see what the young guy can do."