Shoulder surgery lies ahead for McCann

Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann (16) is shown against the New York Mets in  a baseball game Sunday, July 15, 2012 in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann (16) is shown against the New York Mets in a baseball game Sunday, July 15, 2012 in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

ATLANTA -- It will be a long offseason for all the Atlanta Braves. But it may be the longest for Brian McCann.

The Duluth graduate and Suwanee resident faces surgery on his ailing right shoulder and his long-term future with the Braves is up for question.

That would have once been unheard of, with McCann expected to be the face of the franchise with the retirement of Chipper Jones.

But who would have ever guessed that McCann -- beset by injuries -- would tail off as badly as he did at the end of last season and again this year?

The final insult was being benched in favor of David Ross for the wild-card play-in game against St. Louis on Friday night, when the Braves' season came to an end with a 6-3 loss at Turner Field.

"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," the catcher said.

McCann, who had made the All-Star Game in each of his first six full seasons before this year, has a frayed labrum and a cyst in his right shoulder. He had two cortisone shots in the final months of the regular season, but they provided just temporary relief.

Often in pain when he swung and unable to fully extend, McCann batted just .201 with two homers and 11 RBIs after July. A .286 career hitter coming into the season, he finished with a career-low .230 average.

McCann said there is a "pretty good chance" he'll have shoulder surgery.

What that surgery would entail isn't know for sure yet.

"We're going to have to find out after all the inflammation calms down and I'm able to get a dye shot MRI where they can read a little more into it," he said.

The offseason would also normally be the time for contract discussions, with McCann ready to enter the final season of a six-year deal worth $26.8 million. But that appears to be on hold for now.

McCann is owed $12 million next year on a club option. There is a $500,000 buyout.

A five-time winner of the Silver Slugger in the National League, McCann once looked headed to one of the richest contracts ever for a catcher. But his bargaining position as waned.

McCann, 28, would obviously like to stay in Atlanta. But he may not be the cornerstone he once was and the team will have to weigh cost versus production with injuries having taken a toll on the left-handed hitter.

McCann was naturally disappointed and angry when told by manager Fredi Gonzalez that he wouldn't be starting the play-in game. But he said only the right things publicly.

"I haven't been playing the way I want to play and Rossy has been playing great," McCann said Thursday. "I wish I was playing, but I'm not. ... Hopefully I'll get in there somehow and pinch hit. We'll see."

McCann did pinch hit, drawing a walk in the eighth inning following the controversial infield fly ruling.

But Ross had three hits, including a two-run homer, and likely would have seen a majority of the time behind the plate if the Braves had advanced to the division series against Washington.

"Mac is beat up. He's been banged up for awhile," Gonzalez said. "Mac is a very important part of our team. He is a warrior. He battles. ... It's tough. 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 his shoulder got worse and he was also bothered by a knee issue that hampered his mobility behind the plate.

McCann's 20 homers were his lowest since he hit 18 in 2007, and his 14 doubles, 67 RBIs, 121 games played and 487 at-bats were all career lows.

The Braves' biggest offseason question involves re-signing center fielder Michael Bourn, who can become a free agent. But McCann's long-term future is also clouded.

The Braves have lost six straight playoff series, if you can call the play-in as a series. Since McCann came up in 2005, Atlanta is 0-for-3.

But McCann had a .300 average, three homers and eight RBIs in his first seven playoff games. For his eighth, he just got to pinch hit.