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Braves' catchers return to health at right time

Veteran trio gives Snitker flexibility as postseason nears
@mlbbowman
August 30, 2019

ATLANTA -- As Francisco Cervelli was proving he had recovered from the left quad cramp that forced him to exit Wednesday’s game in Toronto, Brian McCann was taking batting practice and preparing to return to action later this weekend. Braves manager Brian Snitker will soon have to decide how he

ATLANTA -- As Francisco Cervelli was proving he had recovered from the left quad cramp that forced him to exit Wednesday’s game in Toronto, Brian McCann was taking batting practice and preparing to return to action later this weekend.

Braves manager Brian Snitker will soon have to decide how he will utilize each of his three veteran catchers during the season’s final month. But he’s certainly happy to have the full allotment of options that will be available when McCann is activated from the injured list on Sunday.

McCann has been sidelined since being diagnosed with a left knee sprain on Aug. 21. The Braves responded to this diagnosis by signing Cervelli three days later, after he was released by the Pirates.

Cervelli developed the quad cramp as he raced from first to third on a Rafael Ortega double during Wednesday’s second inning. The 33-year-old catcher passed some tests on Friday afternoon, when he simulated game action behind the plate before Friday night’s series opener against the White Sox.

Still, if possible, the Braves would like to stay away from Cervelli unless he is needed within the next couple days. That means Tyler Flowers will serve as the primary catcher until McCann returns.

McCann’s condition has significantly improved to the point the Braves could comfortably activate him when he becomes eligible on Saturday. But to avoid having to remove a current member of the active roster, they will wait to make this move on Sunday, when teams begin employing their expanded September rosters.

“He just tweaked the knee,” Snitker said. “I think that time on the [injured list] allowed everything to catch back up. He feels good.”

With McCann, Cervelli and Flowers all on the other side of 30 years old, it might be beneficial for them to share playing time in September. Snitker will be challenged to get each of these catchers sufficient playing time. But if nothing else, the events of this final month will give him a better indication of how to construct his postseason roster.

Other injury updates
Darren O'Day has been sidelined since he developed a right forearm strain during his March 1 Grapefruit League season debut. His rehab assignment has been transferred to Triple-A Gwinnett and he will remain at that level until the Stripers complete their postseason play.

The veteran reliever, who is on the 60-day injured list, might not be cleared to pitch on consecutive days. But with an expanded roster, the Braves could carry him if they feel his addition would be worth making a possible subtraction from the 40-man roster.

Nick Markakis, who fractured his left wrist on July 26, was cleared to play catch on Friday. The veteran outfielder is likely still at least a week away from being cleared to begin swinging a bat. But there still might be enough time for Markakis to be activated during the latter half of September.

Ender Inciarte, who has been sidelined since straining his right hamstring on Aug. 16, has been cleared to begin taking restricted swings. The Gold Glove Award-winning outfielder is not yet able to take swings while putting pressure on his right leg. But his progress has at least enhanced the hope he might return before the end of the regular season.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.