We already knew that Brian McCann wasn’t going to be ready for Opening Day after right shoulder surgery, but there’s a chance that the Braves could be without him for the entire first month of the season.
According to Mark Bowman of MLB.com, Braves general manager Frank Wren confirmed this morning that McCann will not play in a minor league game before April 16. That would put him six months removed from shoulder surgery. It’s not clear how many rehab games he’ll need to play, but it’s possible that he won’t be ready to rejoin the Braves until the end of April or perhaps later.
McCann was cleared to take batting practice at the end of February, but since he’s still building strength in his shoulder, throwing is the biggest challenge. He’s currently limited to long-toss exercises from a distance of 120 feet and isn’t ready to make strong throws down to second base.
Gerald Laird, who joined the Braves this winter on a two-year, $3 million contract, is expected to function as the primary catcher during McCann’s absence. Evan Gattis and Matt Pagnozzi are currently competing for the backup gig.
With Game 6 of the NLCS just hours away, the Dodgers will opt for a lefty-heavy lineup against right-hander Kyle Hendricks. Batting leadoff is rookie outfielder Andrew Toles, who made one appearance at the top of the lineup during the 2016 season. The Cubs, meanwhile, will bench Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.. This will be Almora’s first start of the playoffs, and while he has yet to face Kershaw in October, his right-handed bat could play well against the lefty at the bottom of the lineup.
Game time is scheduled for 8 PM EDT; lineups are below.
1. Andrew Toles (L) LF
6. Wilson Contreras (R) C
8. Albert Almora Jr. (R) RF
9. Kyle Hendricks (R) RHP
UPDATE, 5:08 PM EDT: Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon will not rule out a World Series appearance for Kyle Schwarber if the Cubs advance. MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat reports that Schwarber could play through a simulated game on Sunday, during which the Cubs’ medical and baseball staff would evaluate his chances for a late season return. If he does play, it will likely be in a pinch-hitting or DH role and not on the field.
Cubs’ outfielder Kyle Schwarber will return to the playing field on Saturday, per a report by the Chicago Tribune’s Mark Gonzales. The club’s prized left fielder suffered a season-ending injury when he collided with Dexter Fowler back in April, tearing both his ACL and LCL and undergoing intensive knee surgery later that month.
While no nerve damage was discovered during the surgery, the Cubs have kept a close eye on Schwarber during his recovery and put a kibosh on any part-time or full-time role with the team until the spring of 2017. Getting a few reps in during the Arizona Fall League appears to be the last step in the 23-year-old’s rehab process. He will be part of the Mesa Solar Sox’ ‘taxi squad,’ making him eligible for games on Wednesdays and Saturdays only.
Schwarber batted .246/.355/.487 with 16 in 69 games with the Cubs during his debut season in 2015. He will be added to the Mesa Solar Sox roster in advance of their set against the Salt River Rafters on Saturday evening.