COMMENTARY | After an offseason that included surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder, Brian McCann is tentatively scheduled to return to the Atlanta Braves' lineup April 16 -- exactly six months after his operation. If all goes according to plan, he would be activated for a two-game home series with the Kansas City Royals.
Still, the question remains as to whether or not this date is too soon.
According to general manager Frank Wren, doctors did not want McCann to do any catching until at least six months after his surgery due to the fear he could aggravate the injury. With McCann hoping to return after exactly six months, how ready will he actually be to play real games on the earliest suggested date? Maybe more important, should the Braves even allow him to return anywhere close to that six-month mark?
After going 94-68 in 2012, the Atlanta Braves have World Series aspirations this season. Having McCann on the field in April would figure to pale in comparison with making sure he is completely healthy come Oct.
McCann, 29, was only cleared to resume baseball activities on Feb 28, which, to this point, has only included batting practice and sessions of long-toss.
Despite McCann's lack of real-game participation, manager Fredi Gonzalez has been rather optimistic when talking about his catcher's progress.
"I thought his swing looked great," said Gonzalez. "If I hadn't known he had surgery and was doing the rehab thing, I would have thought he was [in] midseason [form]. It was kind of reminiscent because I used to throw [batting practice] to his group, and I didn't see anything out of the ordinary swinging with that shoulder. Those are great signs really. I think he is coming along just fine and I think he is right on schedule."
During McCann's absence, the Braves were expected to turn to veteran Gerald Laird to handle the pitching staff. However, Evan Gattis has been turning heads this spring. Gattis has emerged as a serious challenger to Laird, thanks to his .357 average, two home runs and 10 RBIs.
Laird is currently just 1-for-10 and carries a career batting average of .244. The deciding factor for Fredi Gonzalez could ultimately be the 10 years of MLB experience Laird has over the unproven Gattis.
As for McCann, his desire to return to the lineup as soon as possible is magnified even more by the fact that he will be entering the final year of his contract. McCann is set to make $12 million for the 2013 season, but his future with the Braves could depend entirely on his ability to bounce back from an injury-plagued 2012 campaign, during which he batted a career-low .230.
Anthony Schreiber is a freelance sportswriter based in "Braves Country." He has penned articles for a variety of online publications and magazines.
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