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McCann to join G-Braves for this weekend's series

Braves catcher Brian McCann batted just .230 last year, a career low due to his injury.

Braves catcher Brian McCann batted just .230 last year, a career low due to his injury.

Brian McCann moves his minor league rehab assignment from Rome to Gwinnett on Thursday night in what the Atlanta catcher hopes will be a final four-game stopover.

The Braves begin a road trip at Cincinnati on Monday and McCann, who had surgery on his right shoulder last October, expects to be with the team.

“I’ll be ready,” McCann insisted. “Where I’m at right now, I feel really good.”

It has been a long and often frustrating 6 ½-month recovery, but the Duluth High School graduate and Suwanee resident had his smile back as he took advantage of Rome being idle on Tuesday to reunite with his teammates at Turner Field and work out.

“Now he sees the light at the end of the tunnel,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “His spirits are really, really good.”

McCann, who had once hoped to be back with the Braves no later than mid-April, began his minor league rehab on Friday and played his fourth game with Class A Rome on Wednesday night.

The six-time National League all-star and five-time Silver Slugger honoree will play in all four of the G-Braves’ four-game series with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre running through Sunday at Coolray Field and then hopefully be ready to join the Braves in Cincinnati.

“If I’m a betting man, then I’ll say he’ll be there,” Gonzalez said.

The Great American Ballpark could be the perfect place for McCann’s return. He has a .333 average and 10 homers in 84 career at-bats there.

McCann, who hit a pair of two-run homers in his first rehab game at Greensboro, will catch two or three of the G-Braves series with Scranton, serving as the DH otherwise. The goal is two catch back-to-back games before he comes off the disabled list.

“This is his spring training,” Gonzalez said.

Greensboro swiped four bases in McCann’s first game and he had two throwing errors. But he insists that his rebuilt arm strength is adequate for major league duty.

“The way I'm throwing is basically the same as before I got hurt,” said McCann, who never possessed a rifle arm. “The ball is coming out great. Now, it's just going to be a matter of catching innings and getting up with the speed of the game.”

McCann, who is eligible for free agency after the season, had shoulder issues most of last year and finished with his worst season offensively. He hit .230 with 20 homers and 67 RBIs in 121 games.

McCann, who had the end of his 2011 season also derailed after an oblique strain, doesn’t look at himself as injury prone.

“I came back (in 2011), and I just wasn’t very good. It wasn’t because of injury,” he said. “I look at it as one year (2012). I don’t look at it as I’ve had all these injuries. I’ve been able to play a lot of games over eight years. I had a shoulder (injury), and I’ve got to bounce back from it.”