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MUD HENS NOTEBOOK

McCann’s offensive skills catching up with his defense

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Toledo Mud Hens player James McCann (13) drives in a run against the Louisville Bats during the seventh inning at Fifth Third Field, Friday, July 18, 2014.

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Entering the 2014 season, there were few questions about James McCann’s defensive ability.

But this year the Mud Hens catcher has started to answer questions about his offense, ranking among the International League leaders in batting average.

McCann, who hit .286 before the All-Star Break, has collected at least one hit in all but one of the 17 games he has played since the break. That raised his average entering Saturday’s game to .310, which ranks eighth-best in the IL.

McCann had an 11-game hitting streak entering play Saturday, during which he collected 21 hits in his last 50 at-bats (.420).

“He’s being more aggressive at the plate,” Parrish said. “He’s getting more good pitches to hit, and when he gets them, he hits them.

“That’s when a hot streak happens.”

McCann has hit just three home runs in 91 games, a surprisingly small number for a 6-2, 210-pound catcher. But the 24-year-old leads the Hens with 31 doubles, a number Parrish said is an indicator that McCann could develop power.

“It may be [a concern] in the [baseball] industry, because he’s a big, strong kid who should hit more homers,” Parrish said. “He worked on an inside-out swing coming out of college, and it has allowed him to look at himself and say, ‘I can hit.’

“But there’s more in there, and he needs that to come out for him to be an everyday catcher.”

The good news for McCann is that his strong defensive play has continued. He leads all IL catchers in fielding percentage with a .991 mark, and he has thrown out 40.9 percent of would-be basestealers, the league’s second-best mark.

“Something else he does well is that he’s interested in being good behind the plate,” Parrish said. “He takes great pride in giving his pitcher the best chance to get hitters out, and he’s obviously a solid thrower.”

TOP TOOLS: Baseball America published its annual list of “best tools” among IL players, and three Mud Hens were honored.

Hernan Perez was voted the best defensive shortstop in the league in a vote of IL managers, while Jordan Lennerton was the best defensive first baseman.

Ezequiel Carrera, who was promoted to Detroit on July 31, was named the fastest baserunner.

PLAYOFF UPDATE: The Mud Hens still have a chance to qualify for the Governors’ Cup playoffs, but the road is a rocky one.

Toledo began play Saturday 4½ games behind first-place Columbus in the IL’s West Division. While the Hens do have 10 games left against the Clippers, Toledo would need to post an 8-2 record just to catch Columbus.

If the Clippers post a 12-12 record to finish the season, the Hens would need an 18-5 finish to catch Columbus.

Contact John Wagner at: jwagner@theblade.com, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.

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