Brian McCann and the Braves were encouraged Saturday by how much better McCann’s strained ribcage muscle felt on Saturday and hope to have the All-Star catcher back in the lineup as early as Monday.
McCann, who suffered an intercostal strain Friday night on a throw to second base, said he woke up Saturday morning relieved.
“I’m a little sore up under my ribcage, but it’s just going to be a matter of dealing with a little soreness, which is a lot better than I thought last night,” McCann said. “…I woke up and knew that it would only be a couple-day thing. I don’t think I can re-injure it doing anything. It’s just a matter of dealing with a little twinge.”
McCann said after he made the throw to second on a wild pitch in the fourth inning, it felt like he had a cramp as he went back into his crouch. He said he felt it again in the fifth throwing to second base on a pitch-out. He came out after grounding out in the bottom of the fifth, something both he and manager Fredi Gonzalez think might have saved him in the long run.
“I don’t like not being in there, but I learned my lesson last year that you go on the DL with an oblique for 3 ½ weeks to a month, it’s going to take you two months to get back,” McCann said. “So I was being cautious and hopefully in a couple days I’ll be ready to go.”
Braves trainers said Friday night the injury was not expected to be as serious as the strained oblique that landed McCann on the disabled list and derailed his 2011 season because it was higher up in his ribcage area. It was also on his right side, not the left like last year. Their predictions were confirmed when McCann was examined again by the Braves medical staff Saturday afternoon.
“It was really, really encouraging today,” Gonzalez said.
Backup catcher David Ross will start Saturday and Sunday and the Braves will use outfielder Matt Diaz as an emergency catcher. Diaz might normally have started in left field Saturday night against left-hander Erik Bedard, but Gonzalez didn’t want to take any chances. Beyond Diaz, Gonzalez said McCann could catch in a dire emergency. McCann said he’s been told he can’t re-injure it by playing.
Diaz last caught in a game in the instructional league in 2005 when the Kansas City Royals were trying to convert him to catcher. A few months later, he was traded to the Braves.
“First thing I asked Frank Wren, who was assistant GM at the time, was ‘You trading for me as a catcher or an outfielder?’” Diaz said. “’No we’re happy with our catching. We have a young guy named Brian McCann.’”
Diaz said he caught a few bullpen sessions last year with the Pirates.
“You don’t really get anything out of that though,” Diaz said. “It’s the first swing in front of your face when you’re trying to catch a ball – nothing you do can prepare you for that.”
In the meantime, he’s got one of McCann’s mitts to use if necessary. Otherwise?
“I’ll be praying for Ross today,” Diaz said.