COMMENTARY | Brian McCann is scheduled to come off of the disabled list and be in the lineup when the Atlanta Braves make the trip to the Great American Ball Park to lock horns with the Cincinnati Reds for three games starting Monday. McCann had been sidelined after undergoing shoulder surgery last October.
McCann started the season on the DL but has since flourished in his Minor League rehab assignments. During his six games between Class A Rome and Class AAA Gwinnett, McCann hit .364 with four home runs, prompting the Braves to cut his rehab short and call him up to the big club earlier than some expected.
The Braves really could not have picked a better game to activate their six-time All-Star catcher. The Reds will start Bronson Arroyo in Game 1 of the series. As it happens, McCann is hitting .500 (9-for-18) with four home runs for his career off of Arroyo.
The addition of McCann to the Braves lineup will give manager Fredi Gonzalez another left-handed power bat to pencil in to what has become a very right-hand heavy Braves batting order. With Jason Heyward still on the shelf, Freddie Freeman is currently the only everyday left-handed batter at the Braves' disposal. The left-handed swinging Juan Francisco has platoon time at third base with Chris Johnson, however, Francisco is battling a right-ankle sprain which has him currently listed as day-to-day. McCann will now be able to add more balance and make opposing teams have to account for potential matchup problems late in games.
After starting the season red-hot with a 13-2 record, the Atlanta Braves have scuffled lately. The Braves are just 5-10 over their last 15 games and McCann's teammates know just how important his return could be to the team moving forward.
"That's huge," said Freddie Freeman. "That's like trading for an All-Star."
"We're very excited," said Dan Uggla. "We've had tremendous efforts out of the guys that have filled in. A lot of guys have stepped up big time, but we're ready for the whole team to be here. Once guys get back, I think we'll really start to come together and figure out how good we actually are."
Evan Gattis was the man tasked with picking up the slack for McCann, and the 26-year-old rookie has more than pulled his weight over the first 30 games of the season. Gattis is hitting .261 with seven home runs and 18 RBIs during McCann's absence. The two will likely share duties behind the plate with Gattis getting spot starts in the outfield and at first base to keep his bat in the lineup.
The Braves will option utility infielder Tyler Pastornicky to Class AAA Gwinnett to make room on the roster for McCann. This move will leave the Braves in the unusual position of carrying three catchers on the active roster. Before the season, the Braves signed veteran catcher Gerald Laird to a two-year, $3 million contract before Gattis emerged as the new starter behind the dish.
For the Braves, McCann will provide an extra boost to the lineup at a very crucial time on their schedule. After beating the New York Mets 9-4 in the second game of their rain-shortened series, Atlanta is now set to embark on a 10-game road trip which will see them traveling to play the Reds, San Francisco Giants and Arizona Diamondbacks. The Braves currently sit just 2 ½ games ahead of the Washington Nationals for first place in the NL Eastern Division.
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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