Braves bench Brian McCann for Wild Card playoff game

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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.

Clayton Kershaw might return to the Dodgers’ rotation next week

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Dodgers southpaw Clayton Kershaw is nearing his return to the mound, according to club manager Dave Roberts. Both Kershaw (left biceps tendinitis) and fellow lefty Rich Hill (left middle finger blister) are scheduled to toss simulated games on Saturday; depending on the outcome, Roberts says Kershaw could forgo a minor league assignment and slot back into the rotation by Thursday.

Kershaw, 30, was diagnosed with biceps tendinitis as the team closed out their Mexico Series at the start of the month. He has not made a start in several weeks, but was finally able to resume throwing on Sunday and managed to get through two successful bullpen sessions. Though Dodgers’ ace hasn’t been completely injury-free over his 11-year career in the majors, this is the first significant issue he’s had with his pitching arm so far. The team is expected to take every precaution with the lefty, and will likely limit him to just four innings during Saturday’s simulated game.

Prior to his injury, Kershaw was working on another dominant run with the club, sporting a 2.86 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 9.8 SO/9 through his first 44 innings of the season. While Kershaw, Hill and left-handed starter Hyun-Jin Ryu served their respective terms on the disabled list this month, the Dodgers utilized a combination of relievers Ross Stripling and Brock Stewart, both of whom impressed during their limited time in the rotation.