ATLANTA -- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has often said the Braves would have put Brian McCann on their active roster to begin this season if they were able to use the designated hitter on a daily basis. In other words, as Spring Training progressed, there were not many concerns about McCann's surgically repaired right shoulder from an offensive perspective.
There were certainly some questions about the arm strength McCann would be able to generate coming off a major shoulder surgery. But as opponents have been successful with just 57 percent of their stolen-base attempts against him this year, the six-time All-Star catcher has exceeded expectations from the defensive end.
"I'm really happy with the way I am throwing because you never know coming off shoulder surgery," McCann said. "You're in the unknown. To be able to throw out runners like I have been lately, I'm very happy."
McCann's throwing ability became a definite concern as opponents were successful with 82 percent of their stolen-base attempts against him during the 2011 and 2012 seasons combined. His career-best performance in this category came in 2010 when opponents were successful with 73 percent of their stolen-base attempts when he was behind the plate.
There is no doubt McCann has benefited from the departure of right-handed pitcher Tommy Hanson, who has one of the game's slowest deliveries. But his success in the throwing department is also a product of the arm strength he has gained much sooner than expected coming off surgery.
"I feel like the ball is coming out as good as it has in a long time, especially coming off labrum surgery," McCann said. "I didn't expect this. But I did a lot of hard work to be able to do this."
Wood to start in doubleheader vs. Mets
ATLANTA -- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez confirmed Alex Wood will make his first Major League start during the first game of Tuesday's doubleheader against the Mets at Turner Field. Gonzalez made the announcement after Sunday night's 3-0 win over the Giants.
When approached by reporters, Wood said he had not yet been informed by the coaching staff. But the 22-year-old left-hander said he was looking forward to the chance to match up against the Mets' Matt Harvey.
"That should be pretty fun," Wood said. "I like a challenge."
Wood has tackled many of the challenges that have faced him since the Braves selected him in the second round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. He quickly became one of the organization's top prospects and made eight dominant starts for Double-A Mississippi this year before getting his first call to the Majors on May 30 to strengthen Atlanta's bullpen.
Wood has not thrown more than 36 pitches in any of the six relief appearances he has made since coming to the Majors. His most recent start occurred May 25, when he tossed seven innings for Mississippi.
This is not an ideal situation for Wood to make his first career start. But the Braves did not have many other attractive options after learning Friday that right elbow inflammation would prevent Brandon Beachy from making this start. It would have been his first since undergoing Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery last June 22.
"We'll take it an inning at a time [with Wood]," Gonzalez said. "He's a guy that throws the ball over the plate. It hasn't been that long since his last start -- I think it's been right at three weeks or so -- but we'll play it by ear. I don't want to put a pitch count on it, I don't want to put an inning count on it. Whatever he gives us, he gives us, and then see what we got there."
Not surprisingly, Wood did not seem too concerned about his potential endurance. He was just thrilled to learn he is going to get a chance to start after spending the past couple of weeks acquainting himself to the foreign relief role.
"It's one of those things where you're still throwing," Wood said. "Being in the 'pen is just a different kind of in shape. But at the same time, I've been starting for two months. It's not one of those things where I can go nine. But the pitch count should be where I could still go five or six [innings]."
Gonzalez said the Braves will bring a pitcher up from the Minor League ranks to serve as the 26th player that both teams will be permitted to use during the doubleheader. This pitcher would provide some insurance in the event that Wood compiles a high pitch count that forces him to make an early exit.
Wood had a 1.26 ERA in 10 starts for Mississippi before getting his first call to the Majors at the end of May. He has allowed three earned runs and five hits in 7 2/3 innings since joining Atlanta's bullpen.
Upton family throws out first pitches for Braves
ATLANTA -- Three generations of Uptons participated in a Father's Day tribute before Sunday night's game against San Francisco.
Braves outfielders B.J. and Justin Upton were joined by their father, Manny "Bossman" Upton, and B.J.'s 3-year-old son, Riley, as the four took the field to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Standing just a few feet away from home plate, Riley threw to B.J., while Manny threw to Justin.
It has been a special year for Manny, who has been able to watch his two sons play on the same team for the first time in their professional careers after B.J. signed a five-year deal in November and Justin was traded to Atlanta two months later. Justin leads the Braves with 15 home runs, and B.J. extended his hot start to the month with his seventh and eighth homers of the year in Saturday's 6-5 comeback win.
Braves eyeing consecutive starts for Gattis
ATLANTA -- The Braves' upcoming doubleheader with the Mets this week will offer Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez the increasingly rare opportunity to arrange back-to-back starts for Evan Gattis.
Gonzalez said before Sunday night's game that Gattis would start at left field and catcher in two straight games somewhere during the Braves' five-game set with the Mets, utilizing Tuesday's doubleheader to give the April and May National League Rookie of the Month consecutive starts for just the second time in June.
"We got to put him in there," Gonzalez said. "Looking forward, I think we'll get him in there a couple days in a row here this next series coming up with New York with the doubleheader on Tuesday."
If Gattis starts Monday night's series opener against the Mets, Gonzalez said he would play in the first game of Tuesday's doubleheader. Otherwise, he'll start Tuesday night and again Wednesday.
When Brian McCann returned from offseason shoulder surgery to make his season debut May 6, Gattis started all three games of the Cincinnati series in left field and has strung together consecutive starts on just three occasions since. Meanwhile, McCann has wasted little time recapturing his offensive productivity after missing the first month of the season, hitting .255 with seven home runs and 17 RBIs since his return.
After Gattis hit .261 with seven home runs and 18 RBIs while starting 24 of the first 30 games of the season, his production as a recurrent member of the starting lineup dropped off as his opportunities to start back-to-back games dwindled. But the looming threat he provides as a pinch-hitter, especially with a second catcher on the bench in veteran Gerald Laird, has kept him in the spotlight.
"The other way around, when he's in [the lineup], you have to deal with McCann [off the bench]," Gonzalez said. "Having a third catcher and then people know that at any time, they got a guy that potentially can do some damage off the bench."
The Braves also have one more Interleague series before the All-Star break, a two-game set in Kansas City on June 25-26 that should give Gattis another pair of starts: one as a designated hitter and one behind the plate or in left. Until then, the unorthodox five-game series this week allows the Braves to get another glimpse of their rookie slugger as an everyday starter.
"You got to contend with him," Gonzalez said. "Whether it's a one-run game, the second hitter of the game or you put him out there with the bases loaded or whatever situation, he's dangerous."