Schafer back from DL; Laird could be activated Sunday

Hot-hitting catcher Brian McCann was out of the Braves’ lineup Saturday to rest a sore knee, which manager Fredi Gonzalez said was a precautionary move.

“He came in yesterday after the game, his knee was a little sore, and I didn’t want to mess with it and make something small bigger,” Gonzalez said. “So we gave him a day (off).”

Gonzalez planned to have Evan Gattis catch one of the weekend games against the Marlins, but would have done that in the Sunday afternoon game, following a night game Saturday, if not for the knee.

With McCann resting Saturday, Gonzalez said he hoped to have him in the lineup for Sunday’s series finale.

McCann hit a home run in Friday’s 5-0 win against Miami and batted .323 with eight doubles, 10 homers and 28 RBIs in his past 34 games, with a .386 OBP and .615 slugging percentage. Despite missing the first five weeks of the season recovering from shoulder surgery, the seven-time All-Star catcher has 17 homers in 71 games (248 at-bats).

Eligible for free agency after the season, McCann has come back strong following a career-worst season in 2012. He hit .278 with a .358 on-base percentage and .524 slugging percentage before Saturday, which would be his highest slugging percentage since a .572 in his first full season in 2006.

His .882 OPS would be the third-highest of his career and highest since an .896 in 2008.

McCann wasn’t available to talk to reporters before batting practice Saturday. Gonzalez was asked if the sore knee was something new for the catcher.

“Yeah,” he said. “When he came out of the bullpen yesterday, warming up (Brandon Beachy), he kind of felt it. We didn’t want to mess with it, so hopefully we get him in there tomorrow.”

McCann was the Braves’ only backup catcher Saturday, since Gerald Laird stayed with Triple-A Gwinnett for one more injury-rehab game. Laird, who has has been on the 15-day disabled list recovering from a kidney-stone removal procedure, will be activated Sunday and outfielder Todd Cunningham will be optioned to Gwinnett.

Rookie Joey Terdoslavich is the Braves’ emergency catcher and has caught bullpen sessions in recent weeks in case he’s needed in that capacity.

Schafer activated from DL: He knew the statistics suggested otherwise, but Jordan Schafer said his injury-rehab stint at Triple-A Gwinnett ended on a good note, and he was pleased to rejoin the streaking Braves on Saturday.

Schafer went 2-for-32 with two doubles, two RBIs, one walk and four strikeouts in eight rehab games.

“Glad to be done with it,” said Schafer, who had been on the DL since July 4 with a stress fracture in his right ankle. “I felt OK (on the rehab assignment), and then the last three or four games I felt really good. So I’m ready to be back. Obviously it’s an exciting place right now to be, and I’m excited to get back on the field.”

Jose Constanza was optioned to Gwinnett to open a roster spot for Schafer, a big part of a strong bench before he got hurt.

“He can lead off an inning, he can steal you a base, and hopefully he has the success that he had before the injury,” said Gonzalez, adding that Schafer’s role would be the same.

Schafer played his best baseball before the injury, batting .312 with a .399 OBP, nine extra-base hits (three homers) and nine stolen bases in 125 at-bats. He was hurt when he fouled a ball off his ankle June 26.

The stress fracture didn’t show up on initial X-rays, and it was more than a week before he went on the DL, after being used in a couple of pinch-hit appearances in the interim.

After a month without playing, Schafer struggled with his timing for several games at Gwinnett.

“That was probably the biggest thing for me, and then being able to go out there and trust myself to run full speed and not have to worry about anything,” he said. “The first game, I was kind of scared to go full speed, even though I ran full speed on the bases before I went on the assignment. But about halfway through (last week) I felt OK and felt it start to turn around a little bit. After the fourth or fifth day, I felt ready.

“The last four games, I lined out nine times. I lined out to the center fielder seven times. It was unbelievable.”

Injury updates: Veteran outfielder/pinch-hitter Reed Johnson, on the DL with Achilles tendinitis, said the condition felt a lot better this week, but he hadn't been cleared to run. He has continued hitting and throwing while on the DL, so it shouldn't take long once he resumes running. … The Gwinnett Braves placed reliever Cory Gearrin on the DL with right shoulder tendinitis. The rookie was optioned to Triple-A on July 5 after giving up eight earned runs in his previous six innings. He has not pitched since the demotion, focusing on strengthening his shoulder and working on his delivery.