10/04/12 4:53 PM ET
Ross gets start over McCann in Wild Card game
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
Now, on the eve of the postseason, Gonzalez has chosen to sit his struggling six-time All-Star catcher.
Gonzalez announced Thursday that he will start David Ross at catcher in place of Brian McCann in Friday's Wild Card game against the Cardinals at 5:07 p.m. ET on TBS.
"It's one of those things where you feel [Ross] gives you a good chance to win a ballgame," Gonzalez said. "Defensively, we know how well he can throw people out. The Cardinals have a tendency to put people in motion a lot. With the combination of Rossy and [starting pitcher Kris] Medlen, maybe we have an opportunity to shut that down a little bit."
"I wish I was playing, but I'm not," McCann said. "That's it. Rossy has been playing unbelievable and I'm his biggest fan. He's one of my best friends in the world and he's going to play great."
When Gonzalez weighed the option of putting the left-handed-hitting McCann in the lineup against Cardinals right-hander Kyle Lohse, the manager placed a greater value on the defense that Ross provides behind the plate.
Ross' ability to handle a pitching staff and control the opposing team's running game has been his strong suit throughout his Major League career. Right now, Ross is also a better offensive option than McCann, who has been bothered by the discomfort caused by a cyst on his right shoulder.
"I have not played the way I wanted to play," McCann said. "Ross has been playing great. That is just a decision that they made."
McCann provided some encouragement when he hit .296 with nine home runs and a 1.059 OPS in the 20 games he played in July. But he has batted .201 with two home runs, a .280 on-base percentage and a .261 slugging percentage in the 39 games that he has played dating back to Aug. 1.
Over the course of these past two months, McCann has often displayed frustration and pain when he has been forced to extend for a pitch. But other than missing a couple of days when he received a cortisone shot in early August and again in early September, he has continued to play through the discomfort.
"It's been hard," Gonzalez said of his decision to start Ross on Friday. "I've been thinking about this for three or four days. Mac is a very important part of our team. He is a warrior. He battles.
"He's been banged up here for a while. God bless him. In the one-game series, you go with Rossy. In the longer series, [McCann] is going to play. He's not that banged up that he's not going to play."
This was not a decision based on the pitching matchup. Ross has a hit in two career at-bats against Lohse, while McCann is 5-for-20 with a home run against the St. Louis right-hander. That one home run was hit on May 30, when the Braves tagged Lohse for five runs and nine hits in five innings.
Ross certainly did not hurt his cause by hitting three home runs in the 50 at-bats he has totaled dating back to Aug. 29. But Ross' presence in Friday's game has more to do with his ability to guide Medlen through the first postseason start of the right-hander's career.
"I'm definitely excited," Ross said. "I'm thrilled to be playing in that game. But I was a little bit uncomfortable until I got a chance to talk to Mac. We talked, and now I'm full bore. Along with Mac being a teammate and an amazing catcher, he's also a good friend of mine. So I wanted to make sure we talked a little bit."
McCann has been determined to play through the right shoulder discomfort that he has felt dating back to the earliest days of this season. He could have rested for two weeks or chosen to undergo surgery at different points during the season. But despite the fact that McCann was likely damaging the value he will take to the free-agent market after the 2013 season, he chose to continue playing.
"Brian McCann is not 100 percent," Ross said. "That guy has done some things in this game that are second to none. I don't want to take anything away from the kind of player that he is. I'm going to go out there and put my best foot forward and play hard. But I don't want to take anything away from Brian McCann. He's an unbelievable guy and teammate. He's got this organization and this team this year where [it's] at."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.