Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 3/8/13
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. Brian McCann took some light swings with a bat, chatting up a member of the Braves medical staff and his teenage son about their golf games as the catcher bided his time, waited to take batting practice at Champions Stadium. In the distance the team charter bus transporting McCanns teammates to another spring training game pulled off, leaving the rehabbing six-time All-Star and a small contingent of players behind to go through their daily workouts. Youll see me, I cant even hit out of the infield now, said McCann, who is recovering from October surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Easy, now Braves fans; he was joking. After Paul Janish and Gerald Laird took their turns the left-hander walked into the cage. McCann tapped the plate and dangled the bat in front of him before cocking back. He turned on pitch after pitch from Double-A Mississippi manager Rocket Wheeler, driving them into the outfield. Its good, McCann said of his progress. Im getting some good treatment down here, some good rehab work. Just started hitting a couple weeks ago. So things are good. This figures to be a pivotal season for McCann and not just because of what, when healthy, he can provide for Atlanta behind home plate. Entering his eighth full season in the majors, McCann is looking to rebound after his least productive year. He posted career lows across the board including 20 home runs, 67 RBI and a slash line of .230.300.399 in 2012 and as the 29 year old tries to return to his five-time Silver Slugger winner form, hell be dong it in the final year of his contract. Im not too worried about (my future), McCann said. Im worried about getting healthy again and getting back on the field with my teammates. Its that desire to be in the lineup that ultimately played a part in McCanns absence from the Braves in spring training. He delayed surgery to try and make it through the 2012 season, receiving two cortisone shots in August and September. But his play suffered and he hit .202 from August until the end of the season, including a slash line of .181.280.181 in the month of August. McCann lost at-bats to long time backup Ross and it was Ross that wound end up getting the start in the wild-card game against the Cardinals. Im not going to sit here and say I should have done this or I should have done that, he said. Im in this position Im in and Im going to move forward with it. Along with BP, McCann is also long-tossing from about 120 feet -- doing two sets of 20 throws -- and is just entering the phase of his return when hes able to do those things on consecutive days. He is targeting an April 16 return but is unsure if that will mean a return to Atlanta or a rehab assignment in the teams Triple-A affiliate in Gwinnett. I just started hitting on the field last week, so Im making my progressions, he said. Im right on schedule but I dont know whats going to happen the next couple of days or next week. Ill know more in a couple weeks. In the meantime its Laird who will get start in McCanns plate on Opening Day. While McCann applauds the veteran, saying This guys been around 10 years. So he knows what he needs to do to get ready for the season and thats why they went and got him because hes a guy thats been around, knows the league, knows how to carry a staff. Were happy to have him. Still, it doesnt make things any easier on McCann and as that April 1 matchup with the Phillies draws closer it will be that much harder to stay the course and not push his return. I definitely want to be out there, he said. I dont want to be in the training room doing what Im doing but I know its a process. The only thing I dont want is to have any setbacks, so Im going to do everything necessary not to have that happen. McCann couldnt help but smile when the topic of conversation turns to the revamped team that hell be coming back to. His own contract status aside, McCann is buoyed by the franchises willingness to make major offseason moves, most notably the acquisitions of brothers B.J. and Justin Upton to add to an outfield that already had a Gold Glove-winner in Jason Heyward. You bring in some dynamic players like we did, with the dynamic players that we already had here, it makes for an exciting season, he said. We feel very confident going into this season that were going to have a good season and good things will happen.
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