Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann sits on the bench in the bottom of the ninth inning of the Braves' baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies in Atlanta on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011. Philadelphia won 7-1. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
ATLANTA -- In the past, it would have been unthinkable to have Brian McCann on the bench with Atlanta's season on the line.
But the five-time all-star won't be in the starting lineup when the Braves face the St. Louis Cardinals today in the National League wild-card play-in game.
His bat ailing along with his shoulder and leg, McCann will be replaced by backup David Ross for the 5:07 p.m. game at Turner Field.
"I haven't been playing the way I want to play and Rossy has been playing great," McCann said after Thursday's workout. "I've been battling my shoulder injury for awhile and my production hasn't been where I need it to be to help the team win.
"I wish I was playing, but I'm not. ... Hopefully I'll get in there somehow and pitch hit. We'll see."
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez informed McCann of his plans after Wednesday's regular-season finale in Pittsburgh.
It obviously wasn't an easy decision, especially with the left-handed hitting McCann having a homer against Cardinals right-handed starter Kyle Lohse earlier this season. But Gonzalez said it was one he needed to make with the Braves' season dependent on a victory.
" ... It makes you feel like you have a good chance to win a ballgame," Gonzalez said of the move to Ross.
"Mac is beat up. He's been banged up for awhile," the manager added. "The one-game series, you go with Rossy. In a longer series, (McCann) is going to play. He's not that banged up that he's not going to play."
Of course, the Braves don't advance to the National League Division Series to face Washington unless they can beat St. Louis.
"It's been hard. We've been thinking about this for three or four days," Gonzalez said of not starting McCann. "Mac is a very important part of our team. He is a warrior. He battles.
"It's tough. He understands. It's tough for both of us."
Bothered by an oblique strain, McCann slumped badly at the plate the last two months a year ago when the Braves let a wild-card spot slip away and he has struggled most of this season.
It looked like he might have gotten back on track when he hit .296 with nine homers and 21 RBIs in July. But he has hit just .201 with two homers and 11 RBIs since, going 0-for-20 before getting two hits Wednesday in Pittsburgh.
The Duluth graduate's average was a career-low .230 for the season. He came in with a .286 career average.
McCann has also suffered defensively, with the hamstring injury limiting his mobility. He has thrown out just 24 percent of runners trying to steal, compared to 44 percent for Ross, who is hitting .256 with nine homers and 23 RBIs in 62 games.
" ... We know how well he can throw people out," Gonzalez said of Ross. "The Cardinals have a tendency to put people in motion a lot. With the combination of Rossy and (starter Kris) Medlen, maybe it gives you an opportunity to shut that down a little bit."
Ross has caught Medlen frequently this season.
"He's a lot of fun to catch," Ross said of the right-hander. "I'm excited. It will be the biggest game of my career by far. But I don't want to take anything away from Brian McCann. He means so much to this team. But he's not 100 percent."