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By The Sports Xchange February 15, 2013 1:40 AM
Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann, who had surgery on his right shoulder after last season, insisted all winter that he was determined to beat his six-month rehab timetable and be ready to start the 2013 season. Fredi Gonzalez seemed to be buying in. "I wouldn't put in past Mac to there for Opening Day," the Braves manager said on the eve of spring training. However, when McCann reported to Florida with his teammates, reality set in. Now the catcher is more realistically setting his likely return for the beginning of a home series with the Kansas City Royals on April 16. That would be exactly six months from when surgery was performed to repair McCann's labrum and stabilize the shoulder. "It's not going to do me any good to come back if I'm not 100 percent," the six-time National League All-Star said. McCann tried to come back too soon from an oblique strain in 2011 and hasn't been the same hitter since, except for a hot month last July. Unfortunately, it was right after that when his shoulder got worse and worse. The Braves picked up McCann's $12 million option for 2013, but his long-term future with the team is in doubt. McCann needs a bounce-back season, and the Braves need him to have one. When camp opened, McCann was limited to hitting off a tee and making throws from 60 feet. Most of his game action during the Grapefruit League season is likely to be in controlled minor league camp games. "The last thing that the doctors want before they clear him, he's got to be able to dive or slide to make sure that his shoulder holds up," Gonzalez said. "Our doctors would rather be safe than sorry," general manager Frank Wren said. McCann, who turns 29 in April, had his string of six straight trips to the All-Star Game end last season, and he failed to win a Silver Slugger as the best-hitting catcher in the National League for just the second time in his seven full seasons. Until McCann is ready to play, Gerald Laird -- signed as a free agent to replace former backup David Ross -- will do most of the catching. "Whatever they tell me to do, I'm going to do it," McCann said.