McCann close, Braves returning to health

For a team that wasn’t at full strength the first month of the season, the Braves are starting to get healthy. Brian McCann is first and foremost on that list, nearing his return from shoulder surgery.

McCann caught back-to-back games on his minor league rehabilitation assignment Wednesday in Single-A Rome and Thursday in Triple-A Gwinnett. In those two games already he showed the Braves he’s ready to go behind the plate. At the plate Friday, he homered for Gwinnett, his second in his past three games. The plan is for him to finish out the weekend in Gwinnett by catching Saturday, though that game was threatened to be postponed by rain, and then he’ll get an at-bat or two Sunday before joining the Braves Sunday to travel to Cincinnati.

If all goes well this weekend, McCann will be activated on Monday.

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez saw McCann catch the first three innings for Gwinnett Thursday night on TV and liked what he saw, as did his predecessor and now consultant Bobby Cox, who watched McCann catch in Rome on Wednesday.

“(Cox) said he looks great,” Gonzalez said. “He told me if something happened to one of our catchers he could cut the rehab short and come up. He felt that good.”

Brandon Beachy has thrown four rounds of live batting practice with two to go before he heads out on a minor league rehabilitation, likely toward the end of the Braves upcoming three-city road trip. Beachy threw live bp Friday and wasn’t quite as sharp as in his previous two, but came away feeling good physically.

“It came out the best it had the last time, so there’s some residual effects from that,” said Beachy, who has increased to 10 minutes his past two sessions. “I can’t expect to have it every time right now. I’m healthy, so it’s another check off the list. Getting closer.”

Beachy is still aiming to return right around the year anniversary of his June 21, 2012 elbow reconstruction surgery.

“His fastball is still really super heavy,” said Tyler Pastornicky, who has stood in against Beachy each of his last three sessions, including Friday. “I don’t think he had his command of his pitches like he wanted to today, but the action on the pitches was what you want to see. If he can get the command like he’s had the last two times, wow. He’ll be ready to go.”

Jonny Venters has begun playing catch this week and expects to get his first work off the mound next week as he ramps up his throwing program. Venters received a platelet-rich plasma injection April 3 in an attempt to avoid a second elbow surgery. He’s hoping to return to action by the end of the month at the latest.