Brian McCann was sporting a cleanly shaven head and a smile Monday as he prepared to make his return from shoulder surgery at Great American Ballpark.
At first, he didn’t recognize the new uniform pants in his locker, the ones with the thin blue stripe down the side that the Braves wear with their blue uniform tops — “Are we doing throwbacks?” — but the rest will come back to him soon enough.
“I’m extremely excited to get going,” McCann said. “I feel like I’ve been away for a while.”
He was six days shy of his seventh-month anniversary since his arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder, something that bothered him the final four months of last season.
“My shoulder feels great,” McCann said. “I didn’t think it’d be feeling this good this early and I’m extremely excited that it feels the way it does.”
McCann, the five-time Silver Slugger award winner, has felt good at the plate throughout his rehabilitation. It’s throwing to second that raised questions and his shoulder has answered those too.
“I’m eager to get back on the field, get that feeling again,” McCann said. “A lot of hard work has been put in and there has been a lot of people that have helped me get to this point. And it’s been a long road but a good one.”
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez had McCann batting sixth in the lineup between right-handers Evan Gattis and Dan Uggla. He said he plans to catch McCann the first two days of the Reds series and then start Gerald Laird in the day game on Wednesday.
He planned to catch McCann the first two games in San Francisco and then rest him on the third game, also day game, as well.
“He ain’t going to be the McCann of old where you can run him in there for six, seven days in a row,” Gonzalez said. “At least not at the very beginning.”
Gonzalez was eager to have McCann’s bat back in the lineup, especially given that he doesn’t traditionally strike out much.
“I think he adds a little different dynamic to our lineup right now,” Gonzalez said. “He’s obviously a dangerous hitter but he’s a guy that doesn’t strike out historically. You’ve got him and Gattis in the lineup there that can put the ball in play.”
Gattis in left: So much for wondering whether Gattis would still be on the Braves roster when McCann returned. Gonzalez couldn’t bring himself to take him out of the lineup.
Gattis got his first major league action in left field, a position he played some in the minors last year and in winter ball, on Monday night. With Jason Heyward (appendectomy) on the disabled list, Gonzalez moved Justin Upton to right field, where he played throughout his career with Arizona.
After watching Gattis deposit one ball after another into the second deck at Great American Ballpark, it was easy to see why Gonzalez went that way. He planned to play Gattis in left field all three games of the Reds series.
“He’s played more of (left field) in the minor leagues than he had first base ever,” said Gonzalez, who started Gattis at first base three times when Freddie Freeman was on the disabled list. “I’ll bet if you ask him, he feels more comfortable out there in left field than he did when we ran him out at first base for a couple days. But it’s a good ballpark for him to play left. It’s not a real big ballpark.”
Gattis played 37 games in left field last year between Single-A Lynchburg and Double-A Mississippi and he estimated 10 games in Venezuela. He played a handful of games in left in spring training and said he shags flies for at least one round of hitters every day in batting practice.
“I remember last year whenever I first got approached to play the position, I was really excited,” Gattis said. “So just make all the routine plays and see what happens. I might get an opportunity to make a good catch or something.”
Notable: A couple days ahead of schedule, Heyward took his first batting practice Monday since undergoing an emergency appendectomy on April 22.
Heyward is hopeful that after two more days of batting practice, he’ll be ready to take a minor league rehabilitation assignment during the Braves’ weekend trip to San Francisco. Gonzalez said they haven’t determined when and where yet, and that they’re monitoring him daily. But the news continues to be good.
“We’re testing everything out. So far nothing but great responses from this side and my body,” Heyward said. …
Tim Hudson was named National League player of the week Monday after winning his 200th and 201st career games in his past two starts while putting up a 2.51 ERA. He also went 2-for-3 with a double and his third career homer while winning his 200th.
The Braves and Mets rainout from Saturday will be made up on June 18 as part of a split doubleheader. Game time is 1:10 p.m. and it will be televised on SportSouth. Fans with tickets from Saturday’s rainout can use them for that first game June 18 or exchange them for any remaining home game, subject to availability.