McCann 25 pounds lighter after offseason regimen

ATLANTA - Spring training is a week longer this year, but Brian McCann will already be in shape when he arrives at Disney's Wide World of Sports.

In fact, the Atlanta Braves catcher will be in the best shape of his life.

Despite being a National League all-star each of his three full years, McCann wasn't satisfied with his 2008 season - especially the way he looked and felt at the end of it.

So the Duluth graduate went to work, drastically changing his diet and adding running to his workout routine. The results will be there for everyone to see when the Braves hold their first workout in Florida on Sunday.

"It's something I had to do," McCann said kicking his bad-eating habit. "It was either get in shape and lose weight or down the road end up playing first base. I didn't want that to happen. I'm a catcher and that's where I want to stay."

McCann has tried to lose weight before, but this time he had the extra motivation and older brother Brad, a former college star and minor leaguer, was there to help him.

The 6-foot-3 McCann finished last season at nearly 250 pounds. Now he is just under 225.

"It was strict, real strict," he said of his off-season diet. "It wasn't easy, but I stuck to it this time. I felt I had to and it think it will really pay off."

McCann won his second Silver Slugger award as the National League's best-hitting catcher, but his work behind the plate didn't match his performance at it. For the second season in a row, he struggled to throw out runners, nailing just 22.5 percent of would-be base stealers.

"When I got done with the season, I was sore and I was still sore for about the first month after the season," McCann said. "I just weighed too much. It put stress on my knees and put stress on my back. I feel way more athletic now and I think that is really going to help me throwing out runners this season."

McCann gave up Mexican food and late-night snacking. Tuna and chicken replaced burgers and nachos. Pizza once a week as a treat was his only indulgence.

"That's what I looked forward to all week," he said.

McCann, who turns 25 on Feb. 20, hit .301 with 42 doubles, 23 homers and 87 RBIs last season. But he doesn't want to be just an offensive player for the Braves.

"I want to be known as a hitter and a catcher," McCann said. "Right now, I think people view me more as a hitter. But I've always taken pride being a catcher and I'm determined to show that I'm a complete player."

It will be a busy spring for the slimmed-down McCann. He will be catching a rebuilt Atlanta starting rotation and also will be playing for Team USA in the second World Baseball Classic, which will take him away from the Braves for part of March.

"I looking forward to working with our new pitchers," McCann said. "I'm excited about this season. Seeing John Smoltz go was tough, but we have Derek Lowe as our new ace and a lot of other good pitchers."

One of those is Japan's Kenshin Kawakami.

"I understand that he can speak English a little bit," McCann said. "That's good. Because I know I can't speak Japanese."

SideBar: Braves Spring Training

When: Players report Saturday, with the first workout for pitchers and catchers Sunday. Full-squad workouts begin Feb. 18.

Where: Disney's Wide World of Sports outside Orlando

Exhibitions: Braves will play 18 home games in Florida beginning Feb. 26 against Houston, plus two games against Detroit in Atlanta on April 3-4

Information: braves.com