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."
Tex acknowledges wrist will never feel the same
HOUSTON -- First baseman Mark Teixeira does not expect his surgically repaired right wrist to ever feel the way it once did, but he believes he will still be a productive big league slugger.
"I'm never going to be the way I was out of the womb," Teixeira said. "People are like, 'You had surgery, so now you're normal.' It's like, no, that's exactly why you're not normal. You have to adjust. I've had to adjust to an ankle surgery, I've had to adjust to a knee surgery.
"Any time you have a major surgery, you adjust your work habits, your preparation habits. So when I say it's never going to be normal, I'm going to have to keep those adjustments as a part of my routine going forward."
So far, Teixeira is pleased with his progress. He went 2-for-3 with an RBI and a walk in the season opener and was able to take something approaching his usual aggressive swings against the Astros.
"Hopefully. it gets stronger as the season goes on," he said. "I try to put together good at-bats. The most important thing is taking my 'A' swing, and that's not protecting it, not thinking about it. Consciously, I have to not think about it. I have to make sure that I'm letting it go on every swing."
Teixeira said that once he gets to the point where his wrist does not feel tight or sore, it will be easier to do that subconsciously. It took until the final weeks of Spring Training for him to come around on the idea of unloading, trusting that his wrist was strong enough for the swing.
"I told you the last week, I was encouraged when I saw him let go," manager Joe Girardi said. "He was letting the bat go swinging. I think it carried over into yesterday. He was the patient hitter that we've seen in the past. He drove the ball and we saw a lot of good things, line drives. We saw a lot of good things."
Betances showing he can handle pressure
HOUSTON -- Dellin Betances was electric on Tuesday in his first outing of the season, and it is possible that the hard-throwing right-hander could work his way into higher-leverage situations out of the bullpen.
Betances faced the top three hitters in the Astros' lineup, with impressive results. Dexter Fowler struck out on five pitches, Robbie Grossman fanned on three pitches and Jose Altuve weakly grounded to second base in a two-pitch at-bat against Betances, who hit 99 mph.
"Really good," manager Joe Girardi said. "He came in, threw strike after strike after strike, got ahead of hitters, finished them with his curveball. It was really good to see."
Asked if Betances could become a late-inning option, Girardi replied, "He could be. He's got big stuff, there's no doubt about it."
Betances was ranked among the Yanks' top prospects as a starting pitcher but was converted to relief work last season in the Minors after battling control issues. He went 4-2 with a 1.35 ERA in 35 relief outings with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2013 and had an 0.73 ERA in 12 1/3 innings this spring, making his first Opening Day roster.
"I think it's that he's adjusted to his role, number one," Girardi said. "It's confidence, it's maturing. As much confidence as you might have in your ability, there's always that little bit of doubt. And some get over that sooner than others."
• The Yankees used 141 batting orders during the 2013 season, and their most-used lineup was together just four times. That fact was not lost on Girardi, who was able to send his Opening Day lineup out a second time on Wednesday against the Astros.
"It's nice," Girardi said. "Obviously, the key is to stay healthy. If we're able to do that, you can see this lineup a lot."
• Girardi will probably handle Hiroki Kuroda's season a lot like he approached Andy Pettitte's final big league campaign, studying pitch counts closely and scanning for signs of fatigue.
"Maybe you start thinking, you get up around the 100-pitch mark, that might be it for him," he said. "You've got to see how taxing the innings are, if he's got an extra day's rest coming, all those sort of things. We're going to have to watch him."
• On this date in 1996, Derek Jeter batted ninth and hit a solo home run off Dennis Martinez in the fifth inning of the Yankees' 7-1 Opening Day victory over the Indians in Cleveland. Jeter became the first Yankees rookie to start at shortstop in a season opener since Tom Tresh in 1962.