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Braves bench struggling C McCann for wild-card game

The Associated Press

10/4/2012 3:32:53 PM

ATLANTA -- Plagued by injuries, Brian McCann endured the worst season of his career. He'll watch the Braves' wild-card playoff game from the bench.

Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez announced that David Ross -- not McCann -- will start Friday against the St. Louis Cardinals. But Gonzalez stressed that it's not a permanent move if the Braves advance past the one-game playoff.

"I think going forward Mac will catch, obviously, in a longer series, a five-game series or even a seven-game series if we get that far," Gonzalez said Thursday before a workout at Turner Field. "We'll play the matchups."

Gonzalez said he made the move primarily for defence, believing Ross has a better chance of keeping the Cardinals from attempting to steal. Also, Ross was behind the plate for two of the most dominant performances by starting pitcher Kris Medlen: a 12-strikeout effort against Colorado on Sept. 3 and a career-high 13 Ks against Washington on Sept. 14.

"You feel like (Ross) gives you a good chance to win the ballgame," Gonzalez said. "Defensively, we know how well he can throw people out. The Cardinals have a tendency to put people in motion a lot. And with the combination of Rossy and Medlen, maybe it gives you an opportunity to shut that down a little bit."

Slowed by a knee injury and an ailing right shoulder, McCann batted just .230 with 20 homers and 67 RBIs this season. Ross hit .256 with nine homers and 23 RBIs.

Gonzalez said it was difficult to tell McCann that he wouldn't be starting the wild-card game.

"I've been thinking about this for three or four days," the manager said. "He's a very important piece to our team and he's a warrior."

Gonzalez said Ross, a right-handed hitter, could start again if the Braves advance to face Washington and left-hander Gio Gonzalez, since McCann bats lefty. But the manager stressed that McCann will get the bulk of the playing time if Atlanta makes an extended post-season run.

"He's beat up. He's been banged up for a while," Fredi Gonzalez said. "Again, a one-game series, you go with Rossy. In a longer series, (McCann is) going to play. He's not that banged up."

McCann said he understood the decision.

"I wish I was playing. But I'm not. That's it," he said. "Rossy's been playing unbelievable. I'm his biggest fan. He's one of my best friends in the world and he's been playing great.

"I'll hopefully get in there somehow, maybe pinch-hit late. We'll see."

Ross called it the biggest game of his career, but stressed that McCann is still the team's primary catcher.

"He's done some things that are second to none in this game," Ross said. "I'm going to go out there and give it my best, but I don't want to take anything away from Brian McCann."

McCann said there's a good chance he's going to need shoulder surgery in the off-season. He's already had two cortisone shots, but doesn't plan on taking another one.

"I've been battling a shoulder injury for a while," he said. "My production hasn't been where it needed to be to help the team win."