All-star spot a reward for McCann's strong comeback

Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann (16) celebrates a home run earlier this month in a game against the Miami Marlins at Turner Field. (Photo: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports)

Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann (16) celebrates a home run earlier this month in a game against the Miami Marlins at Turner Field. (Photo: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports)

There was a little bit of payback involved when National League manager Bruce Bochy selected Brian McCann to replace Atlanta Braves teammate Freddie Freeman in the All-Star Game.

After all it was McCann’s decisive three-run double in 2010 that gave the NL home field for the World Series won by Bochy’s San Francisco Giants.

Sentiment, though, really wasn’t needed. McCann deserved a spot in Tuesday night’s All-Star Game at Citi Field in New York.

The Duluth High School graduate and Suwanee resident earned it with his comeback performance after a dismal 2012 capped by major surgery on his right shoulder in October.

McCann has returned to his old form after missing the first five weeks while regaining strength in his repaired shoulder.

The left-handed hitter finished the first half by homering in his last two games and is batting .291 with 12 home runs and 32 RBIs in 53 games. He has a .374 on-base percentage thanks to 23 walks against 32 strikeouts and his slugging mark is .536.

Those numbers rival McCann at his peak and many wondered if the 29-year-old’s best days were behind him.

“Lot of hard work went into this winter to be in this position,” he said. “The rehab that I put in, it’s all paying off right now.”

This is McCann’s seventh All-Star Game and is in some ways the most gratifying. The only drawback is that he was picked because a sore left thumb knocked Freeman out of playing.

It was to be the first All-Star Game for Freeman, who won the final fan vote for the NL team. He still went to New York, but not as a participant.

“It’s unfortunate that he won’t be able to play in the game,” McCann said. “I’m happy to be going in his place. I’m happy somebody in this clubhouse got to go in his place. But I feel bad for him, that he won’t be able to enjoy it on the field.”

Freeman was the Braves first-half MVP, but McCann has hit nearly as well since returning to action in early May.

McCann has been especially hot the past three weeks, batting .410 (25-for-61) with five homers and 15 RBIs in 16 games.

“He’s having a great season,” Freeman said of McCann. “He missed a month and a half and has just gone out and delivered.”

Joining McCann on the field in New York will be Braves closer Craig Kimbrel, who made the NL team for the third consecutive year.

The Braves don’t give bonuses for All-Star Game appearances, but McCann will certainly benefit from having his bounce-back first half recognized.

McCann had his $12-million option for 2013 picked up by the Braves despite his 2012 struggles, but is almost certain to land on the open market after the season as a free agent.

Despite McCann’s preference to remain in Atlanta, the offers may be better elsewhere. Because of the designated hitter, the American League is a potential landing spot.

McCann, though, only cares about beating the AL right now and giving the NL home field for the World Series. It is the Braves’ goal to be there in October.

McCann helped the Giants out in 2010, when he was named the All-Star MVP for his big hit in Anaheim, Calif.

“That was one of the biggest highlights of my career so far,” McCann said. “It's something I'll never forget, and I hope I'll get the chance to do it again.”