Brian McCann is hoping to be ready by Opening Day

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Brian McCann was projected to miss the first few weeks of the season following shoulder surgery, but he’s more optimistic about it:

“If all goes well, it’s going to be hard for me to sit there and watch the team on Opening Day, if I’m feeling good … Being three months out of surgery, I feel like I’m ahead of schedule.  I feel better each day, and I’m very encouraged by the signs that I have received recently. Now that I’ve had the surgery, I can tell a huge difference with my range of motion and flexibility. This is as free as my shoulder has been for a few years.”

His speedy and effective return would eliminate a pretty big headache for the Braves. They signed Gerald Laird, but they lost David Ross, so if McCann is absent or ineffective, the catching corps is quite depleted compared to last season.

It would help him too, of course. He’s entering the final year of his contract.  If he returns to form and shows durability, he’s going to get a pretty massive deal for next year, one would assume.

Gerrit Cole second-fastest to 200 strikeouts in a season

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Astros starter Gerrit Cole dominated the Athletics on Monday night, limiting them to one run on two hits and a walk while striking out 11. It marked his 12th start out of 22 this season with double-digit strikeouts, giving him 205 total on the season.

It is no surprise, then, to hear that Cole is the second-fastest in baseball history to reach 200 strikeouts in a season, per MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart. Cole got there in 133 1/3 innings. The only pitcher faster than Cole was Randy Johnson, who reached 200 K’s in 130 2/3 innings back in 2001 with the Diamondbacks.

Along with the 205 strikeouts, Cole holds an 11-5 record with a 3.03 ERA across 136 2/3 innings. Among qualified starters in the American League, only Charlie Morton (2.61), Mike Minor (2.86), José Berríos (2.96), and teammate Justin Verlander (2.99) have a better ERA than Cole, who has twice finished in the top-five in Cy Young Award voting.