McCann replaces Freeman in All-Star Game
ATLANTA -- Freddie Freeman will still have a chance to experience his first All-Star Game. But his inability to play has provided his Braves teammate Brian McCann a chance to be a part of yet another Midsummer Classic.
A wave of emotions filled the injury-riddled Braves clubhouse on Sunday. A few hours after Freeman learned a left thumb injury would prevent him from playing, Major League Baseball announced National League manager Bruce Bochy had selected McCann to serve as Freeman's replacement.
"Freddie's carried us," McCann said. "It's unfortunate that he won't be able to play in the game. I'm happy to be going in his place. I'm glad someone in this clubhouse got to go in his place, but I feel bad for him that he won't be able to enjoy it on the field."
Bochy's decision to go with McCann was primarily influenced by the fact that he wants to carry three catchers on his roster that already included Buster Posey and Yadier Molina, who has spent the past week dealing with an inflamed right knee.
But it also could to do with the fact that Bochy still remembers the game-winning double McCann recorded in the 2010 All-Star Game. The hit provided McCann his only All-Star MVP Award and the Giants a chance to own home-field advantage as they beat the Rangers in that season's World Series.
"That was one of the biggest highlights of my career so far," McCann said. "It's something I'll never forget, and I hope I'll get the chance to do it again."
McCann earned six straight All-Star selections from 2006-11 and then missed last year while dealing with a right shoulder ailment that forced him to undergo offseason surgery and miss this season's first five weeks. Since returning to his everyday role as Atlanta's catcher, he has produced like he did while winning five NL Silver Slugger Awards.
McCann entered Sunday hitting .291 with 12 home runs and a .910 OPS, which ranked second only to Posey among NL catchers with at least 200 plate appearances. The Braves veteran enhanced his All-Star credentials while hitting .440 with a 1.282 OPS in his past 13 games.
"It's huge," McCann said. "A lot of hard work went into this winter to be in this position. The rehab that I put in, it's all paying off right now."
McCann will enjoy this year's Midsummer Classic with Braves closer Craig Kimbrel and Freeman, who will travel to New York to enjoy the honor he received by garnering more votes than any player in the history of the All-Star Final Vote balloting process.
Freeman's hope to participate was erased when he jammed his left thumb after grabbing Andrelton Simmons' errant throw and tagging Cincinnati's Chris Heisey during the first play of Saturday's game against the Reds.
The 23-year-old first baseman was wearing a soft splint on his left hand on Sunday morning and dealing with swelling in his left thumb. McCann went out to the mound to give Freeman time to test his thumb, and Freeman stayed in to finish the game, going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. He wore a batting glove under his first baseman's mitt in the field.
"I thought I could just manage it and get through the game, and I was able to play defense," Freeman said on Sunday morning. "Obviously, I wasn't too good hitting yesterday, but it just got jammed up a little bit on the first play of the game."
Freeman said that he jammed the same thumb sliding headfirst in 2010 with Triple-A Gwinnett and that the splint was primarily a precaution.
"I have to look out for the best interests of this team, so I have to be able to play in the second half," Freeman said. "If I can't play in the All-Star Game, it's far better off to be able to play in the second half."
After receiving treatment over the next couple days in New York, Freeman will meet with Dr. Gary Lourie in Atlanta on Thursday to re-evaluate the injury before the Braves decide how he will be used in the first series after the break against the White Sox.
Freeman's injury extended what was a nightmare three day-stretch for the Braves. They lost Jason Heyward, B.J. Upton and Justin Upton to injuries on Thursday and Friday. While B.J. Upton went on the disabled list, Heyward, Justin Upton and Freeman are hoping to return immediately after the All-Star break.
"I guess my thumb was in the wrong place," Freeman said. "It's just one of those freak injuries that I seem to run into every single year. It's not too bad."