Bill on Baseball:Brian McCann powers Rome over Hoppers in first rehab start

from Bill Hass with Bill on Baseball(Greensboro Grasshoppers) at

Brian McCann powers Rome over Hoppers in first rehab start

Put a major league hitter in a minor league lineup and things happen.

Brian McCann, the all-star catcher from the Atlanta Braves, played his first baseball game since undergoing surgery in October for a torn labrum in his right shoulder. At the plate, he looked as if he had never been away, smashing a pair of two-run homers and drawing two walks to propel Rome over the Hoppers 10-6 Friday night.

“It felt good,” he said. ”I got some pitches to hit and luckily I didn’t miss them.”

He was most pleased about the way his shoulder felt behind the plate and how fast he got the ball out of his glove and on the way to second base. The Hoppers tested McCann on the basepaths, stealing four bases, and he made two throwing errors. But accuracy is something he said he can iron out.

“The night couldn’t have gone any better,” he said. “I was a lot happier with how I threw the ball than I thought I would (be). The game was a little bit fast for me behind the plate, kind of like my first game in spring training. The more I get back there the better I’ll feel.”

McCann will be with Rome through this four-game series, likely alternating between catching one day and being the DH the next. He said his situation will be day to day after that.

“When I’m ready, I’ll be back up (with Atlanta),” he said. “I get 20 days (to rehab). It could be 10 days, I don’t know. I’m not going to put a date on it. If I feel like I did today, I’ll build off it tomorrow and see what happens.”

The crowd of 6,349 included numerous fans wearing McCann jerseys, and they didn’t have to wait long for results. Hitting third in the lineup, he drew plenty of cheers when he came up with a man on base in the first inning. On a 3-and-2 pitch from Scott Lyman, he drove a pitch over the fence in right center field.

In the third inning, he drew a walk and scored on a three-run homer by Josh Elander. In the third, facing Brian Ellington, McCann drove one high and far over the right portion of the scoreboard for another two-run shot. He drew another walk in the fifth and grounded sharply into a double play in the seventh to complete his night. Second baseman Anthony Gomez speared the hard-hit ball on a short hop to start the double play.

Hoppers pitching coach Blake McGinley said the pitchers didn’t try to set up McCann by pitching him inside. His power hitting was contagious — Elander and Casey Kalenkosky hit three-run homers. Lyman’s line was brutal — 17 batters faced in two innings, nine hits allowed (three homers and three doubles), two walks and a wild pitch. The eight runs he allowed inflated his ERA from 3.44 to 6.64.

The Braves put up five runs in the first inning, three in the second and two in the third. They didn’t score again, with the Hoppers’ getting three shutout innings from Chipper Smith and one from Frank Reed.

Greensboro’s hitters showed some life, with Yordy Cabrera contributing a three-run homer and Viosergy Rosa drilling a long solo shot for his sixth homer of the season.

“You can’t allow a guy like (McCann) to beat you, and he was the difference,” said manager Jorge Hernandez. “They were hitting .232 as a team, but you put a guy like that in the lineup and you see what happens.”

The teams play the second game of the series tonight, with Ramon Del Orbe drawing the start for the Hoppers.