Braves catcher Brian McCann struggled mightily with an injured shoulder for the last two months of his career-worst season, and the former six-time All-Star said Saturday that he’ll probably need surgery that could require up to four or five months of recovery.
That could affect his availability for spring training and the start of the 2013 season.
The midseason diagnosis by a Braves specialist was a frayed labrum and cyst in his throwing shoulder, but McCann will have a dye-contrast MRI within a week to determine the full extent of the damage before doctors determine a course of treatment.
“We already basically know what is going to happen, what needs to happen,” McCann said. “I think it’s going to be [a matter of] how long I’m out for. Could be a couple of months, it could be a little more than that. Could be four or five months. We’ll see what happens. We’ll find out. I can’t really say right now, but I’m pretty sure surgery.”
McCann made $11.5 million in the final year of his contract in 2012, and the Braves are expected to exercise a $12 million option for the 2013 season, after which he’d be eligible for free agency. Braves general manager Frank Wren said he and his staff haven’t yet discussed the options on contracts for McCann and pitcher Tim Hudson, but would in the next few weeks before the deadline to pick up those options within three days of the last game of the World Series.
Unlike McCann, Wren is optimistic that the catcher can avoid surgery.
“I think we first have to determine if surgery is necessary — that hasn’t been determined yet,” Wren said. “I think there will be some testing to determine if surgery is necessary…
“From what we know, it would not be a surgical repair. But during the season we can’t do the MRI with injection because you’re down too long. So once he has the MRI and we know totally and get the medical report — but from what we know now, the prescribed treatment is rest.”
McCann hit .230 with 20 homers, 67 RBIs and a .300 on-base percentage and .399 slugging percentage in a career-low 121 games, and backup David Ross had an increased role in the last months of the season while McCann dealt with the shoulder injury – he got two cortisone shots, which provided only temporary relief – and knee tendinitis.
An MRI of the knee was “clean” and showed no ligament damage, Wren said.
“You get raging tendinitis in a joint, it can be very painful,” he said. “So he was battling that and he was battling the shoulder. And unfortunately with the shoulder, the only thing that can help it is rest. And during the course of the season, you’re never going to get enough rest to get it turned around. We may find out with the MRI with contrast that there’s more going on in there.”
McCann struggled with his swing for much of the first three months of the season, a carry-over from the 2011 season when he came back too soon from an oblique strain and fell into bad habits while trying to protect his side in the last two months of the season. Once he got back in a groove this season, hitting .308 with nine homers in an 18-game stretch in July, the shoulder injury cropped up and began “biting” him when he extended on some swings.
McCann hit .201 with two homers, 11 RBIs and 29 strikeouts in 134 at-bats over his final 39 games. He could have shut it down when the shoulder pain persisted instead of taking two cortisone injections and possibly risking further injury, but McCann said that wasn’t even something he considered.
“I’ve got 24 teammates that show up here every single day,” he said. “I’ve been battling with them since February and I wanted to see this thing to the end. Whether that puts me behind a little bit, it was something I was willing to do.”