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BRAVES NOTEBOOK: McCann won’t be back until mid-April

The Braves, nor Brian McCann, want to rush back from an offseason surgery, so the catcher's target date to return has been pushed back to mid-April.

The Braves, nor Brian McCann, want to rush back from an offseason surgery, so the catcher's target date to return has been pushed back to mid-April.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann, who had surgery on his right shoulder after last season, insisted all winter that he was determined to beat his six-month rehab timetable and be ready to start the 2013 season.

Fredi Gonzalez seemed to be buying in.

“I wouldn't put in past Mac to there for opening day,” the Braves manager said on the eve of spring training.

However, when McCann reported to Florida with his teammates, reality set in. Now the catcher is more realistically setting his likely return for the beginning of a home series with the Kansas City Royals on April 16.

That would be exactly six months from when surgery was performed to repair McCann's labrum and stabilize the shoulder.

“It's not going to do me any good to come back if I'm not 100 percent,” the six-time National League All-Star said Friday.

McCann tried to come back too soon from an oblique strain in 2011 and hasn't been the same hitter since, except for a hot month last July. Unfortunately, it was right after that when his shoulder got worse and worse.

The Braves picked up McCann's $12 million option for 2013, but his long-term future with the team is in doubt. McCann needs a bounce-back season, and the Braves need him to have one.

When camp opened, McCann was limited to hitting off a tee and making throws from 60 feet. Most of his game action during the Grapefruit League season is likely to be in controlled minor league camp games.

“The last thing that the doctors want before they clear him, he's got to be able to dive or slide to make sure that his shoulder holds up,” Gonzalez said.

Braves GM Fran Wren agreed, saying he’s OK with McCann sitting out until then if it means he’ll be around for the stretch run.

“Our doctors would rather be safe than sorry,” Wren said.

McCann, who turns 29 in April, had his string of six straight trips to the All-Star Game end last season, and he failed to win a Silver Slugger as the best-hitting catcher in the National League for just the second time in his seven full seasons.

Until McCann is ready to play, Gerald Laird — signed as a free agent from the AL Champions Detroit Tigers to replace former backup David Ross — will do most of the catching.

Until then, the Braves just want McCann to take it slow and steady.

“Whatever they tell me to do, I'm going to do it,” McCann said.

Chipper returns to Braves camp — well, sort of

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Chipper Jones is coming back.

Well, for five days.

The retired Braves third baseman arrived at spring training Friday for a five-day stint as a guest instructor. Manager Fredi Gonzalez joked that he would have a fungo bat waiting for the future Hall of Famer to hit grounders on the farthest backfield at the team’s training complex at ESPN Wide World of Sports.

The Braves’ first full-squad practice was Friday, after the past three days of workouts for pitchers and catchers.

The Braves said Fred McGriff and Dale Murphy are among other former players scheduled to serve as guest instructors this spring, but didn’t have specific dates yet.

Last year at age 40, Jones hit .287 with 14 homers and a .377 on-base percentage in 112 games in his 19th season.

“I think the team’s going to be all right” in the post-Chipper era, Braves legend Hank Aaron said Thursday.

Constanza delayed: On official reporting day for Braves position players Thursday, Jose Constanza was the only absentee. The outfielder was delayed by visa issues in his native Dominican Republic.

Juan Jaime and Yohan Flande, Dominican pitchers delayed by visa issues, were also delayed, as was pitcher Wirfin Obispo..

Get your Bobbleheads: In addition to the usual promotions such as Friday Night Fireworks, Alumni Sundays and two Bark in the Park games, the Braves are also giving away bobbleheads at two home games this season. Freddie Freeman bobbleheads will be distributed to the first 20,000 throught the turnstiles May 30, and B.J. Upton bobbleheads go to the first 20,000 fans June 20.

Also, magnetic schedule will be given away at April 5-6 home games, and ‘80s replica caps on July 27.