Updated: Braves will go with Ross instead of McCann on Friday night
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez announced that he will start David Ross in place of Brian McCann in Friday night’s one-game Wild Card playoff against the Cardinals.
“It’s one of those things where you feel he gives you a good chance to win a ballgame,” Gonzalez said. “Defensively, we know how well he can throw people out. The Cardinals have a tendency to put people in motion a lot. With the combination of Rossy and Medlen maybe we have an opportunity to shut that down a little bit.”
Even with the Cardinals starting right-hander Kyle Lohse, the Braves are opting to take McCann’s left-handed bat out of the lineup to provide themselves with a better defensive option.
“It’s been hard,” Gonzalez said. “I’ve been thinking about this for three or four days. Mac is a very important part of our team. He is a warrior. He battles.
“He’s been banged up here for a while. God Bless him. In the one-game series, you go with Rossy. In the longer series, (McCann) is going to play. He’s not that banged up that he’s not going to play.”
Bothered by right shoulder discomfort throughout this season, McCann provided some encouragement when he hit .296 with nine home runs and a 1.059 OPS in the 20 games he played in July. But he has batted .201 with two home runs, a .280 on-base percentage and .261 slugging percentage in the 39 games that he has played dating back to Aug. 1.
Ross has three home runs in the 50 at-bats he has compiled dating back to Aug. 29 and one hit in two career at-bats against Lohse. McCann is 5-for-20 with a home run against the Cardinals right-hander. That one home run was hit on May 30, when the Braves tagged Lohse for five runs and nine hits in five innings.
But there really is not any more reason to try to find something within the numbers. If the Braves go this route, it will be a move seemingly based on the desire to put the better defensive option behind the plate.
This is not a decision that will play well with McCann, who has been determined to continue playing through the right shoulder discomfort that he has felt dating back to the earliest days of this season. He could have rested for two weeks or chosen to undergo surgery at different points during the season. But despite the fact that he was likely damaging the value he will take to the free agent market after the 2013 season, he chose to continue playing.
The Braves remained patient with McCann with the hope he would gain some relief courtesy of the cortisone injections he received in early August and again in September. But the six-time All-Star has never regained the promise he showed in July.
McCann’s mindset has been that he would deal with the discomfort as long as the Braves still had a chance to win the World Series.
While this selfless attitude is admirable, this is the time of year when the Braves have to do whatever they believe gives them the best chance to win the World Series.
Roster breakdown: Manager Fredi Gonzalez said he might carry 16 position players for Friday night’s one-game playoff. This would include J.C. Boscan, whose presence as the third catcher will make it easier to pinch hit either McCann or Ross. The Braves’ roster for this one game will also include three starting pitchers — Kris Medlen, Tim Hudson and Mike Minor. Hudson and Minor will simply be available in the event of an emergency or to serve as that a long reliever in an extra-inning situation.
The Braves will carry six relievers. Craig Kimbrel, Eric O’Flaherty, Jonny Venters, Luis Avilan, Cory Gearrin and Chad Durbin appear to be the most likely players to fill this group.
The battle for the final two bench spots seems to involve Eric Hinske, Lyle Overbay and Jeff Baker. I’m guessing they go with the left-handed Hinske and right-handed Baker.