Posted on August 21, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
The injuries are quickly starting to pile up for the first-place Atlanta Braves. The club placed catcher Brian McCann on the 10-day Injured List Wednesday because of a sprained left knee. He joins an ever-growing IL that also includes Nick Markakis, Dansby Swanson, and Ender Inciarte, depriving the Braves of nearly half of their everyday players. Catching prospect Alex Jackson has been called up to take McCann’s place on the roster.
McCann left in the 4th inning of Tuesday’s win over the Marlins after feeling discomfort in his left knee. He underwent tests on Wednesday and the initial impression is that the sprain isn’t that serious. The Braves are hopeful that it will be a brief stint on the IL and McCann may be able to rejoin the team in as little as two weeks. But they can’t play with only one healthy catcher and they don’t want to take any chances with the veteran, prompting a trip to the IL.
The 35-year-old backstop has split time with Tyler Flowers this season, although McCann has started a few more games than Flowers. After a disappointing offensive output last year with the Astros, McCann has bounced back a little with the bat in 2019. At the moment, he’s hitting .264 with an OPS of .758, contributing 10 home runs and eight doubles. His numbers are noticeably better than Flowers, which is part of the reason McCann has started more games.
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Nevertheless, the Braves will have to lean on Flowers a little more while McCann is out. Flowers is hitting just .220 with an OPS of .696 this season. He also leads the majors with 13 passed balls, as McCann has been more reliable defensively this year. That’s another area where the Braves will miss him.
As for Jackson, the former first-round pick is a natural outfielder who only began catching in 2017. He’s still learning the position, so he may not get too much playing time on a team trying to hold their lead atop the NL East. Offensively, Jackson has hit 25 home runs in triple-A this year but only has an average of .225. He was 0 for 10 during a brief stint with the Braves earlier this year when McCann missed 10 days due to a strained hamstring.
Despite Atlanta’s optimism that McCann could be able to return in a couple of weeks, McCann is still another key player going to the IL. Despite all of the recent injuries, the Braves are holding steady with a six-game lead in the NL East. However, more injuries makes them more vulnerable to a potential losing streak that could cause their lead to shrink.
“You deal with injuries all the time,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said after Tuesday’s game. “We were fortunate for the majority of the year. It just seems like all of ours are coming all at once. The guys have responded. They keep hanging in there and they’re playing the game.”
On the bright side, the Braves only have three games against teams with a winning record between now and September 5. However, 17 of their final 22 games are against the three teams fighting to catch them in the NL East. If the Braves don’t get players like McCann, Markakis, Swanson, and Inciarte back by the second week of September, it could be tough to hang onto their lead in the NL East and win their second straight division title.