Braves hoping to see McCann and Uggla turn things around
After watching them extend their mounting struggles through Tuesday night’s loss to the Nationals, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez opted to keep both Dan Uggla and Brian McCann out of the lineup for Wednesday night’s series finale. To the outside observer, it might have seemed like a bold move. For many of you who have closely followed this team, the decision made perfect sense.
McCann produced reason for encouragement he hit nine homers and produced .704 slugging percentage in July. But his right shoulder discomfort and determination to play through the pain is concerning.
Uggla seemed to be heading in the right direction when he tallied a pair of multi-hit games in Philadelphia earlier this month. But since then, he has performed much like he has over the past two months.
Uggla has batted .144 with a .255 slugging percentage over his past 65 games. Both of those percentages rank as the lowest compiled by a qualified Major Leaguer dating back to June 6.
As for McCann, he is hitting more like Belliard than Piazza right now. His production this month consists of seven singles in 48 at-bats.
With Uggla, the Braves can at least hope that his streaky ways lead him to a hot stretch at the right time. Might seem like an unrealistic wish right now. But this is the same guy who hit .276 with 10 home runs and a .876 OPS during the first 55 games he played this season.
Unfortunately, physical limitations, or specifically shoulder discomfort, have prevented McCann from being the same guy most of you have known over the past few years. Everything has been different since he pushed to come off the disabled list far too early after straining an oblique muscle on July 26, 2011.
Trying to protect himself from aggravating the oblique injury, he developed bad habits that plagued him until he seemingly righted himself with the power barrage in July. It was during this stretch that he revealed his right shoulder was bothering him. But he made it seem like it was not a big deal.
When asked about his shoulder last weekend, McCann displayed an agitated side not often seen since he arrived in the Majors in 2005. He was upset Gonzalez kept him out of the lineup for a second straight day on Saturday. So he opted to say that he didn’t know why the team was labeling his injury as a subluxation of his right shoulder. His take is that he is dealing with a cyst and a frayed labrum, which would be expected from a 28-year-old catcher.
Both parties are right. So to simplify things, McCann is dealing with a bum shoulder that might need to be surgically repaired if he is still bothered by the ailment this winter. This would certainly delay the start of his preparations for his final season before heading into the free agent market.
Had McCann gone on the disabled list when the Braves gave him a cortisone injection on Aug. 7, he would have been eligible to come off the disabled list today. There is no guarantee those two weeks would have provided relief. But given that he has recorded four hits in 33 at-bats during this span, he has not exactly been an asset during this stretch.
McCann is eligible for free agency at the end of the 2013 season. The struggles he has endured dating back to last August could obviously affect the significance of his payday. Those American League teams that might want him to be a designated hitter/catcher will watch closely before determining whether it is worth showering him with the big contract that has been envisioned.
Many players in McCann’s position might have taken the selfish route by choosing to rest at a point in their career when they could be hurting themselves financially. His determination to continue playing might be admirable from that standpoint. But if he continues to produce like he has over the past few weeks, he could be hurting both himself and the team by continuing to play through the pain.