With Avila on DL, McCann is taking advantage of opportunity

This past Thursday, James McCann hit a walk-off home run in the 11th inning against the Astros.

Rick Osentoski

DETROIT — It’s James McCann’s time now.

With Alex Avila on the DL indefinitely with a left knee injury, McCann is playing a lot and making the most of it.

With limited playing time in April, McCann hit .257/.278/.429 with one home run and five RBI.

Since Avila went on the DL May 8, McCann has played in 13 of the last 15 games, including Saturday’s mid-afternoon game against the Houston Astros.

McCann is now batting .299/.330/.437 with two home runs and 10 RBI.

"There’s nothing that can replace seeing live pitching," McCann said. "You can hit off a machine, it’s just not the same. Being able to get in that rhythm day in and day out, it helps."

McCann has hit safely in 13 of his last 17 games, batting .354 in that span.

Although McCann did have some experience with the Tigers as a September call-up and in spring training last year, being with them from spring training on has made him a lot more comfortable.

"Coming into a playoff race in September was fantastic, the guys in the clubhouse were very accepting, they didn’t treat you any differently just because you were a September call-up," McCann said. "At the same time, we hadn’t formed those relationships over the course of the year, you hadn’t been through the fire with those guys. Whereas this year, we’re in it together day in and day out, so it’s a different relationship that forms between every player and myself."

Although expectations are higher now for McCann than they were when he was up in September, he said he feels less pressure now.

"Yeah, I’m a rookie and I’m trying to prove myself and prove my worth but at the same time, every guy in here knows what I can do and understands where I’m coming from," McCann said. "Whereas last year, no one knew me from Adam, other than who I was fro spring training. So just being able to know that those guys have my back in every situation makes it a lot more relaxing."

The last thing McCann wanted to see was Avila end up on the DL, but he’s taking advantage of the opportunity he has.

He said he’s been able to get into more of a routine, knowing that when he comes to the ballpark he’s likely to see his name in the lineup.

McCann’s first career home run was an inside-the-park one on April 29 at Minnesota.

This past Thursday, McCann hit a walk-off home run in the 11th inning against the Astros.

That must mean McCann’s third home run, whenever it comes, will be a grand slam.

"That would only make sense, right?" McCann said with a laugh.

"I was asked, what’s your encore going to be? Well, I think playing and having a good, long career would be a real good encore. I just feel very blessed."

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