DETROIT – Brian McCann could rejoin the Braves in just over a week during their next road trip, but the veteran catcher’s return doesn’t mean Evan Gattis will be sent down to the minor leagues.
McCann is in the final stages of his recovery from October shoulder surgery and was 3-for-7 with a double, two home runs, five RBIs and two walks in his first two rehab games for Class-A Rome, which got rained out Sunday.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez said he was leaning toward carrying three catchers when McCann returns, with veteran backup Gerald Laird and Gattis both staying on the 25-man roster along with the former six-time All-Star McCann.
“Yeah, I think so, but we’ll see,” Gonzalez said. “I mean, Gattis hasn’t given us any reason to (send him down). He’s hit at the major league level; he’s got what, six home runs? So there’s no reason for him to go to Triple-A. We’ll see how that dynamic works, and how close Jason (Heyward) is to coming back.”
Heyward had an emergency appendectomy Monday at Denver. He’s eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list on May 6, the opener of a series at Cincinnati and the first game of another 10-game, three-city trip. But he might not be ready that soon.
If McCann comes off the DL before Heyward, Gonzalez hinted that he could play Gattis some in left field and move Justin Upton from left field to right.
“But who goes down?” to open a spot on the 25-man roster for McCann, Gonzalez asked rhetorically. “But that’s nine, 10 days down the road.”
He said there was no sense in worrying about that decision until it had to be made, since such matters often take care of themselves. As an example, he said, “Somebody rolls and ankle and you have to put them on the DL…. It’s probably 50-50 that it will take care of itself, somehow. There’s always something crazy.”
Gattis led major league rookies in home runs (six) and RBIs (13) before Sunday, and his five game-winning RBIs ranked second in the majors overall, one behind San Francisco’s Angel Pagan.
He was 5-for-34 with 10 strikeouts in his past 10 games to drop his average to .235 before Sunday night’s series finale at Detroit, although those five hits were all for extra bases including two home runs.
Gattis believed his recent increase in strikeouts and reduced batting average had more to do with his own approach than with anything hitters were doing against him.
“Maybe guys have been pitching me a little tougher, but I don’t notice anything different,” he said, adding that he had been “chasing pitches than I wouldn’t like to swing at, in hindsight. And then maybe trying to do too much sometimes, in some situations. Less is more sometimes.”
McCann, after catching six innings and hitting two home runs Friday and serving as designated hitter Saturday, was scheduled to catch seven innings Sunday for Rome before the game got rained out. It’ll be made up as part of a doubleheader Monday, and McCann will catch one of those games.
He’ll move up to join Triple-A Gwinnett’s team for the rest of the week, and Gonzalez said he could come off the DL while the Braves are on the road next week, at Cincinnati or San Francisco. He said the Braves would stick with the plan to have McCann play at least nine or 10 rehab games before rejoining the major league club.
Heyward update: The right fielder returned to Atlanta from Denver a couple of days after his appendectomy and was resting in Atlanta when he exchanged text messages with Gonzalez on Sunday. Heyward plans to stop by Turner Field on Monday when the Braves start a seven-game homestand.
“He’s going to come in tomorrow for a little bit,” Gonzalez said. “He says he’s just tired. Which is probably (normal), with the appendicitis, the surgery, the travel back from Denver to Atlanta…. I think little by little he’ll get his strength back….
“He didn’t give me any indication that he was working out or doing anything. He was talking more about resting. He was watching the games and said, ‘It’ll be all right, skipper.’ He made sure to tell the coaches he said hi and that he misses being out here with the guys.”