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McCann comfortable with catching style

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HOUSTON -- If you watch Brian McCann closely this season, you may notice that the first-year Yankee likes to keep his right hand exposed more than some other catchers when setting up behind home plate.

It is a personal choice, and one that can be painful at times. In the first inning of Tuesday's season opener against the Astros, McCann took a foul ball off the knuckles of his throwing hand, briefly delaying the game.

Although he didn't enjoy being nicked by that Jason Castro tip, McCann believes it helps his game to keep his hand behind the glove instead of hiding it behind his leg more often, as some might suggest.

"I think it's just the way we kind of are as catchers," McCann said. "There's a difference. Some people have different preferences. There's not a set way to do it. It's just a preference. I block better like that, I throw better like that."

Last season, catcher Francisco Cervelli was hit by a foul ball during an April game against the Blue Jays. His hand was fractured, an injury that required surgery. Cervelli has changed his style as a result, and now tucks his right hand near his leg.

"I did it because I have to protect my hand," Cervelli said. "I always had it [behind the glove] before. That was the way I learned. For me it was comfortable."

Manager Joe Girardi, a former big league catcher, does not have an issue with McCann leaving his right hand out in the open. In fact, that was how he worked during his own career.

"I was more comfortable that way," Girardi said. "Just blocking and the exchange -- you know, it's weird to have one arm [in front] and one [in back]. There's nothing in life that we really do like that. You walk, you run, both hands are in front."

Girardi considers Cervelli's broken hand a rare occurrence.

"Usually, when you get hit in the knuckles, you're all right," Girardi said. "Cervy was the first time that I've seen it be a problem. It's a choice they make, and I don't have a problem with the choice they make."

Bench coach Tony Pena, who caught 18 seasons in the big leagues, used to keep his right hand protected, but that made him different from his peers.

"I was doing things that nobody did," Pena said. "It was comfortable."

Pena understands why McCann wouldn't want to change his catching style.

"It just depends on if he is comfortable. I think everybody has to feel comfortable," Pena said. "If you think about what will happen, it will happen."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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