McCann itching to return
Chipper Jones will return to the Braves’ lineup tonight and as he was exiting the clubhouse after Friday night’s win over the Mets, Brian McCann said he believes he will be ready to play when he is eligible to be activated from the disabled list this upcoming Friday.
But as much as McCann might believe he’ll be ready, there is little reason to believe he will be playing in next weekend’s series against the Cubs. First and foremost, the Braves are going to be very protective of their six-time All-Star catcher and will not activate him until it is obvious he is no longer bothered by the left oblique muscle he pulled during the July 26, 19-inning game against the Pirates.
History has shown most players need at least three weeks before returning from an oblique strain. With this in mind, it might even be a bit optimistic to think he could return during this month’s series against Giants (Aug. 15-18). But with all this being said, the Braves have to be encouraged that McCann had no problem hitting off of a tee Friday. He hopes to take batting practice before today’s game against the Mets.
Another factor weighing against McCann’s desire to make a quick return is the fact that the Braves have not realized encouraging results when Jason Heyward and Jones returned after abbreviated Minor League rehab stints.
After undergoing arthroscopic surgery to repair torn meniscus in his right knee on July 9, Jones played portions of two games with Class A Rome and then returned to Atlanta’s lineup July 25. Six innings into his return game the veteran third baseman suffered a right hamstring strain that limited him to pinch-hit duties over the past 10 games.
Heyward battled right shoulder discomfort during the early portion of the season and recorded just 13 at-bats between May 13-21. The 21-year-old (turns 22 Tuesday) outfielder went on the disabled list the following day and played just two rehab games on June 13 and 14 before returning.
Call it hindsight or whatever you want, but you have to wonder if Heyward would currently be more productive had he had more time to work on his swing, which appeared broken before he went on the disabled list. In the 41 games played since returning in June, Heyward has hit .227 with a .310 on-base percentage and a .380 slugging percentage.
With Jones returning tonight, Martin Prado will return to left field for at least a day. Jones will rest again during Sunday’s series finale against the Mets.
Prado’s return to the outfield creates reason to wonder how the Braves will utilize Jose Constanza, who has impressed with his speed since making his Major League debut last week. His teammates are calling him “Georgie” in reference to the popular Seinfeld character George Costanza. (I’m going to try to get a picture of the Second Spitter Roger McDowell introducing himself to the new Constanza across the street from the Shea Stadium crime.)
After last night’s game, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said Constanza has at least led him and his coaches to wonder if they should keep him in the lineup. But while it’s fun to watch the 27-year-old rookie run, the fact remains he should be viewed as nothing more than a role player who can assist on the bases and occasionally spell an outfielder.
In other words, Constanza is basically that same player he was envisioned to be back when the Braves instead opted to carry Joe Mather for a couple weeks.