Atlanta Braves catcher and Duluth graduate Brian McCann smiles before the first inning of a spring training baseball game against the Houston Astros in Kissimmee, Fla.
ATLANTA — Brian McCann joined his Atlanta teammates for the flight to Cincinnati and will be in the lineup when the Braves open a long road trip against the Reds on Monday night.
“He’ll play,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
McCann got just two at-bats as the designated hitter in the first game of Gwinnett’s doubleheader on Sunday, but he had nothing left to prove.
“I’m ready to go and get the season started,” he said.
Cincinnati couldn’t be a better place for McCann’s return. The catcher has a .333 average and 10 homers in 84 career at-bats in Great American Ball Park.
McCann, who had labrum surgery on his right shoulder last October, batted .348 with four homers and nine RBIs in seven games with Class A Rome and Class AAA Gwinnett.
Just as important, he showed that he could handle the rigors behind the plate and throw well enough to keep base runners honest.
A big test was catching back-to-back games and McCann did that on Wednesday and Thursday at Rome and then Gwinnett.
“I feel great and I’m ready to go,” he said.
McCann gives the Braves three catchers, but Evan Gattis was hitting too well to be a candidate to be sent to the minors.
The 26-year-old rookie was 2-for-4 with a sacrifice fly on Sunday in a 9-4 victory over the Mets and hit a team-best .350 (7-for-20) with a homer and four RBIs on the Braves’ 3-3 homestand.
Gattis, hitting .261 with seven homers and 17 RBIs, has played first base this season and could see a little time in left field.
To make room for McCann on the 25-man active roster, Tyler Pastornicky was returned to Gwinnett.
The infielder was 1-for-7 in six games with the Braves after batting .351 with seven extra-base hits and seven RBIs in 18 games for the G-Braves, where he will again mainly play second base.
Despite being without McCann, the Braves (18-12) are in first place in the National League East.
“It's going to be nice to get all the pieces back,” said new left fielder Justin Upton, who hit 12 homers in April. “We know we have an All-Star catcher coming back. I used to love to watch him play and swing the bat even when I was playing against him. So it's going to be fun to play beside him.”
The Braves play three games in Cincinnati to start a 10-game trip that continues to San Francisco for four games and then finishes with three games in Arizona.