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Braves' McCann faces crucial season

The SportsXchange

Brian McCann, who grew up in the Atlanta suburb of Duluth, Ga., was always expected to replace Chipper Jones as the face of the Braves franchise. But Jones has retired, and it is no longer a given that McCann will be around long term himself.

Although the Braves picked up McCann's $12 million option for 2013 rather than buy the catcher out for $500,000, no one really knows what next season or the future will hold.

McCann, plagued by health issues for two seasons, had extensive surgery on his right shoulder Oct. 16 and faces a rehab of four to six months. That means he likely will be limited in spring training and could miss much of the first month of the season.

"We'll know more in spring training," Braves general manager Frank Wren said. "We're still probably looking at early April before doctors will turn him loose."

The Braves hope to re-sign free agent David Ross, who homered while starting in place of McCann in the National League wild-card game. They also may bring in another catcher with top prospect Christian Bethancourt still a year away, but both the Braves and McCann know that 2013 is a key year.

An All-Star his first six seasons before missing out in 2012, McCann becomes a free agent after next season. Right now, it is hard to peg his worth to the Braves or any other team.

In 2012, the left-handed hitter batted .230 with 14 doubles, 18 homers and 67 RBI in 121 games. He had a .399 slugging percentage and a .300 on-base percentage. All those stats are well below his norm, and he now seems like a very old 28. He has never been known for his work behind the plate, just at it.

During the two-hour surgery, the tear in McCann's labrum was found to be larger than anticipated. However, everything was said to have gone well, and McCann maintained last season that his throwing wasn't bothered by the injury, just his hitting.

Although Wren denied it, the Braves undoubtedly questioned if it was really worth $12 million to keep McCann for 2013 given his injury status and the fact he is one year away from free agency. Was it a baseball decision or partially a marketing one? It would have been hard to lose two of most popular Braves -- Jones and McCann -- at the same time.
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