McCann on shoulder rehab: ‘Today was a great day’

Braves catcher Brian McCann is expected back on the roster by mid-April.
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Braves catcher Brian McCann is expected back on the roster by mid-April.

Credit: David J. Philips, The Associated Press

Credit: David J. Philips, The Associated Press

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – The Braves have never wavered on a strict six-month minimum rehab period for Brian McCann, which has made slightly easier for him to accept that April 16 is the earliest he could possibly play in a major league game.

But on a day like Friday, when McCann took morning batting practice with teammates on the main field for the first time since October surgery, the itch probably got a little stronger for the Braves’ six-time former All-Star catcher.

“I’ve just got to be smart,” said McCann, who also did two sets of 20 throws at 120 feet. “Today was a great day. Throwing was better than it has been, and hitting – today is the best I’ve felt hitting. I’m taking the necessary steps forward.”

McCann said it was the third time he’d taken batting practice, and that Saturday he expects to hit and throw again, marking the first time he’s done those activities on consecutive days.

The extension in his swing looked and felt good Friday, something McCann couldn’t say last season when he played through a shoulder injury that got progressively worse after the All-Star break in his career-worst season.

He had surgery Oct. 16 to repair a torn labrum in back of his throwing shoulder, and ligaments were secured back to the socket to stabilize the joint. McCann had been plagued by subluxations (partial dislocations) in the shoulder on some swings, feeling sharp pain when he extended on some swings or when he tried to stop a swing after guessing wrong on a pitch.

A five-time former Silver Slugger Award winner, McCann McCann had career-lows in most categories in 2012, including a .230 average with 67 RBIs, a .300 OBP and .399 slugging percentage, albeit with 20 homers.

He entered last season with a .286 career average, .358 OBP and and .486 slugging percentage, along with 87 or more RBIs in four of six seasons.

“The middle of July is when it started getting to the point where I was starting to feel it a lot more than I had in May and June,” he said. “It just kept getting worse. You can play through injury, you can play through pain, but it just got to the point where it was affecting the way I would attack a baseball. Balls that you’re normally hitting on a line drive, you’re fouling off, and balls that you would square up, you’re rolling over. It just kept getting worse.”