Brian McCann hoping to come off DL when eligible Friday

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Oblique strains tend to sideline players for longer than the minimum 15-day stay on the disabled list, but Brian McCann is pleased enough with how his recovery has gone to think returning when eligible Friday is possible.

McCann took batting practice yesterday for the first time since suffering the injury on July 26 and told David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution that “it felt fine … it felt exactly how I thought it would.”

He didn’t go all-out with his swings and still needs to avoid setbacks while participating in catching drills, but McCann talked of beginning a brief minor-league rehab assignment as soon as Wednesday.

Backup catcher David Ross has struggled filling in for McCann, who hit .306 with 18 homers and an .889 OPS in 91 games before the injury to solidify his status as one of the game’s best, most underrated players.

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with left ankle injury

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Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.

The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.