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McCann could return as early as next week

Veteran catcher rehabbing from surgically repaired right shoulder

ATLANTA -- Brian McCann returned to Turner Field on Tuesday to take batting practice and interact with some of his Braves teammates for the first time since the end of Spring Training. If the remainder of his Minor League rehab assignment goes well through the end of this week, McCann could be back in Atlanta's lineup for next week's series in Cincinnati.

"I'll be ready," McCann said. "Where I'm at right now, I feel really good."

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Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez confirmed the possibility that McCann could be activated from the disabled list early next week, and then provided a more confident affirmation when told the six-time All-Star catcher has had success hitting in Cincinnati's offensively friendly Great American Ball Park.

"If I'm a betting man, then I would say he'll be there," Gonzalez said in reference to McCann, who has hit .333 with 10 home runs in 84 at-bats in Cincinnati.

McCann began his rehab assignment with Class A Rome on Friday and will play one more game with the South Atlantic League club on Wednesday. He is then scheduled to play at least four games for Triple-A Gwinnett beginning on Thursday. While McCann will serve as a designated hitter for at least one of these games with Gwinnett, he will handle the catching duties on consecutive days at some point this week. So far, his surgically repaired right shoulder has not proved to be a problem when he has been swinging a bat or making aggressive throws from behind the plate.

"The way I'm throwing is basically the same as before I got hurt," McCann said. "The ball is coming out great. Now, it's just going to be a matter of catching innings and getting up with the speed of the game."

McCann took batting practice with his teammates before Tuesday night's game against the Nationals and also served as the catcher while Brandon Beachy threw live batting practice late Tuesday afternoon.

"He looks good," Gonzalez said. "The reports I'm hearing from our scouts and Minor League coaches is that his arm is working. Now, it's just a matter of getting some at-bats and getting him some games to see where he's at."

McCann played through discomfort last year and then underwent reconstructive surgery in October. While the long rehab process has prevented him from playing the first month of what could be his final season in Atlanta, he has appreciated the chance to spend the past month working with some of the Minor League coaches and managers who helped mold him after the Braves selected him in the second round of the 2002 First-Year Player Draft.

While playing with Rome, he reconnected with manager Randy Ingle, hitting coach Bobby Moore and general manager Mike Dunn. When he spent the first three weeks of April in extended spring action, he worked with manager Rocket Wheeler.

"These guys helped me turn into a man," McCann said. "I went to them at 18 years old. To go back at 30 years old with seven or eight years in the big leagues, it has been a different experience. But I wouldn't say it's been a bad one. There are a lot of kids trying to get here. You kind of forget that when you're here."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for

Atlanta Braves, Brian McCann