The Atlanta Braves will be without Brian McCann a little longer than they originally expected, as general manager Frank Wren told braves.com that he will not be cleared to start a minor league rehab assignment before April 16.
The new timetable makes it reasonable to believe that the club will be without their starting catcher until the end of April, Wren is hesitant to make any definite plans regarding McCann's surgically repaired right shoulder.
"He's progressing fine," Wren said. "I don't think he's behind or ahead [of schedule]. I just think it is progressing as you would expect. As you get closer and get the shoulder strengthened, the improvement can happen very quickly."
McCann, though he has taken batting practice with no problems, is still easing into his throwing program. He has been long tossing at 120 feet, though he hasn't been cleared to make throws to second base on base stealers. He was also just cleared Saturday to throw the ball back to the pitcher in bullpen sessions.
If McCann keeps progressing, he'll start participating in simulated games but will not catch or run farther than first base.
"It's just a matter of how quickly the shoulder strengthens, responds and gets resilient," Wren said. "It's not just one day being strong. It's bouncing back the next day and being resilient and able to take the grind."
As of now, the plan is for McCann to go back to Atlanta with the Braves next Thursday but to return back to Lake Buena Vista the following week to keep hammering away at simulated games. From there, he'll catch more bullpen sessions to build his leg strength and eventually be cleared to make more aggressive throws.
McCann won't be given the okay to catch in a real game, however, until at least April 16, which is the earliest he could start playing minor league rehab games.
"If he's getting a lot of at-bats and the last thing is getting behind the plate to catch, that is not going to take that long," Wren said. " These are not things you plan too far in advance, because you have to allow the rehab schedule to dictate how he feels."
McCann is looking to bounce back from a career-worst season in 2012, during which he hit .230 with 20 homers. He is in the final year of his contract, and though he probably won't be back in Atlanta in 2014, could cash in with an American League team looking for a catcher and designated hitter.
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