Another game, another step closer for catcher Brian McCann as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery.
After four games with Class A Rome, the six-time All-Star continued his rehab assignment with the Triple-A Gwinnett Braves on Thursday, going 1-for-4 with an RBI single against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders in a 4-1 loss at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville, Ga.
McCann's lone hit came in the eighth inning off reliever Josh Spence, who ducked out of the way of the line drive up the middle on a 2-2 count.
"I feel great out there," McCann said. "The last thing I'm worried about is my hitting. I feel great swinging the bat. I'm ready to go."
McCann jumped on RailRiders starter Brett Marshall in the bottom of the first, hitting a sharp liner that short-hopped second baseman David Adams, who started a 6-4-3 double play. McCann flied out softly to center in his second at-bat, in the fourth, and lined out sharply to left in the sixth.
In five rehab starts, McCann is hitting .333 with three home runs and eight RBIs. With a return to the big league club on the horizon, he feels comfortable with his improvement at the plate.
The biggest challenge facing McCann is making sure he has velocity and accuracy in that surgically repaired shoulder.
He wasn't able to show it off much on Thursday, but he did get a chance to make a play at home. In the top of the eighth, left fielder Corey Wimberly caught a liner from Zoilo Almonte and unleashed a fantastic throw to McCann, who reached across the plate to nail Melky Mesa and finish a double play.
It's all about comfort for McCann, who called a great game. Starter Sean Gilmartin had a no-hitter through six before getting into trouble and giving up three earned runs in the seventh.
"This the first time I've been behind the plate for back-to-back [games]," McCann said. "I'm making all of the throws I need to make. It's there, and it's been there for three weeks now. I'm going to use these next three games to work on my receiving a little better, and I'll be ready to go."
McCann will make three more appearances with the Gwinnett Braves over the weekend. He will be the designated hitter on Friday and Sunday, with one more game at catcher sandwiched in between. He expects to join the Braves when their 10-game road trip kicks off on Monday against the Reds at Great American Ball Park.
Barrett Sallee is a contributor to MLB.com.