Mets' Luis Rojas explains decision to start James McCann at first base to open Rockies series

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James McCann Mets in catcher's gear mask off standing near plate at Citi Field in April 2021
James McCann Mets in catcher's gear mask off standing near plate at Citi Field in April 2021

When Luis Rojas handed in the lineup card for the series opener against the Colorado Rockies at Citi Field Monday, James McCann made his way back on it. But there wasn’t a No. 2 next to his position.

Instead, it was a No. 3. First base.

With all the injuries plaguing the Mets at the moment, Rojas and his staff have had to be creative. And the latest outside-the-box decision was placing McCann at first base to kick off this series. He explained pre-game why that decision was made.

“First of all, we’ve been talking about this for the last week, even less than that,” he told reporters via Zoom. “When Pete [Alonso] came out Friday and went on the IL, we talked about some of our potential first baseman that we could have in different games. Facing a lefty tonight and trying to include McCann and also include [Tomas] Nido in the lineup, that’s the reason we came up with the decision to have him in there.”

Rojas explained how Gary DiSarcina has been working with McCann at first base – a position he has never played professionally – for the past few days. Back in spring training, McCann mentioned to the coaching staff that he actually felt comfortable there if he was ever needed.

But with Alonso and Dom Smith both on the team, it generally shouldn’t be necessary that your starting catcher moves to first base. Then again, these are not normal times for the Amazins’ at the moment.

“He’s been working with DiSarcina and even today again for early work we had him there working,” Rojas said of McCann. “That’s a decision that he’s familiar with even though he hasn’t played there professionally. He’s familiar with the position. He’s worked there before; he’s looked good to us. I don’t think there’s going to be anything compromised from a defensive standpoint there.

“He was very outgoing about playing there. We’ve been talking about it for two days now and very outgoing. Very easy about it.”

This might not have to be the case for long, though. Smith is in the lineup, but playing left field. Rojas said McCann’s bat in the three hole, despite not doing well with the lumber to start his first season with New York, was the reason he was put at first to make sure he hits against the lefty for the Rockies tonight, Austin Gomber.

J.D. Davis, who is one of the many Mets on the IL, is close to returning but the Mets want him playing some first base in Triple-A Syracuse for when he returns.

“We want him to play nine innings and play some first base, too,” Rojas said. “Get more comfortable playing because he hasn’t played in four years at first base. Once he’s played a string of nine innings, we want to hear his feedback of how the feel for swinging the bat, finishing his swing, which is the most important thing right now to see how that pain feels in his hand. And then we’ll know if he’s going to join us later this week, weekend.”