David Ross, not Brian McCann, will be behind the plate for the Braves’ playoff game against the Cardinals tomorrow night.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez made that announcement today, saying Ross provides the best chance to win in part because McCann is “beat up” physically after playing through various injuries all season.
During the regular season McCann started 113 times, compared to 47 for Ross, but they essentially split the playing time evenly for the last two weeks and McCann was terrible throughout August and September.
McCann hit .243 with a .768 OPS through the end of July, which isn’t that far off from his career .826 OPS, but during the final two months the six-time All-Star batted just .201 with two homers in a .541 OPS in 39 games.
Ross, meanwhile, did his usual solid work in a backup role while hitting .256 with a .770 OPS in 62 games, but the decision to bench the left-handed-hitting McCann in favor of the right-handed-hitting Ross versus Cardinals right-hander Kyle Lohse is a bold move by Gonzalez.
Also worth noting is that McCann caught Atlanta starter Kris Medlen for 93 innings during the regular season, compared to 44 innings for Ross. And Medlen had a sub-2.00 ERA working with both catchers.
Long-time rotation mainstay Tom Koehler was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans on Monday and reliever Hunter Cervenka was recalled, the Marlins announced.
Koehler, 31, made 131 starts out of the Marlins’ rotation over the last five years, but his 12 this season have not been good, so the club hopes he can figure things out with a stint in the minors. He’s carrying a 7.92 ERA with a 44/29 K/BB ratio in 55 2/3 innings. Koehler battled bursitis in his right shoulder in May and June, which may partially explain his struggles.
Cervenka, 27, posted a 4.50 ERA with a 34/21 K/BB ratio in 34 innings of relief with New Orleans. He hasn’t pitched in the majors yet this season, but compiled a 3.53 ERA over 43 1/3 innings in the bigs last year in the Marlins’ bullpen.
At the trade deadline, relief pitching is the name of the game and one of the names clearly available is Pat Neshek. Today Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports that the Nationals, Dodgers, and Red Sox are among the clubs who are closely scouting the Phillies reliever. Last week Ken Rosenthal reported that the Brewers and Rays were involved as well.
Neshek is an impending free agent, so he may come cheaper than Justin Wilson or some of the other bullpen arms available right now. The All-Star is 36 and is posting a fantastic season, featuring a 1.12 ERA and 45/5 K/BB ratio over 40.1 innings this season.