Around the Horn: Catchers

Around the Horn: Catchers

The following is the first in a series of weekly stories examining the 2010 Braves, position by position. Today: Catchers

ATLANTA -- Still one month shy of his 26th birthday, Brian McCann is preparing for his sixth Major League season with the desire to continue establishing himself as one of the game's greatest catchers.

With four consecutive All-Star selections and three National League Silver Slugger Awards through what has been just four full Major League seasons, McCann has certainly provided the Braves reason to feel good about the catching position for an extended stretch.

But McCann's presence provides just a portion of the reason they're entering this upcoming season once again confident about the guys they'll be putting behind the plate. Back to serve as McCann's backup will be David Ross, who proved to be a productive asset during his first season in Atlanta last year.

"We like our catchers a lot," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "Mac had another strong season after he had the problem with his eyes last year and it was really nice to have Rossy around."

With McCann and Ross working as a duo for the first time, Braves catchers led the NL in homers (28), doubles (40), RBIs (110), slugging percentage (.484) and OPS (.837).

Despite battling the vision problems during most of April and missing the first week of May, McCann led all NL catchers with 21 homers, 94 RBIs and an .834 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage). He ranked second with a .281 batting average.

Other than the fact that he had to deal with the vision scare, this didn't provide much reason for surprise. Dating back to the beginning of the 2006 season, McCann leads all Major League catchers in homers (86), RBIs (362) and doubles (143).

"It's nice to hear those things," McCann said. "But that's not something that I think about. Maybe down the road, but not now."

McCann's vision problems stemmed from the fact that his vision had changed since he had undergone Lasik surgery at the end of the 2007 season. Initial attempts to remedy his situation with eye drops and corrective lenses proved to be unsuccessful.

But when McCann returned to regular action with the assistance of prescription Oakleys on May 8, he once again proved to be a productive force in the middle of the Braves' lineup. During his final 125 games, he hit .289 with 19 homers and 87 RBIs.

Still wanting to ditch the glasses, McCann opted to once again have his vision repaired through the Lasik surgical procedure in October. Since then, he hasn't revealed any problems with his vision.

Ross hit .273 with seven homers and an .888 OPS in his 54 games (36 starts) in 2009. The 32-year-old veteran hit .298 with three homers during a 15-game stretch that coincided with the period that McCann was attempting to fix his vision.

With Ross' presence, Cox should have the confidence to provide McCann the opportunity to rest more than he did during the final five months of this past season.

The addition of Troy Glaus to fill the cleanup role should also provide the Braves more comfort in occasionally providing more rest to McCann, who manned that role for the majority of the 2009 season.

As McCann looks to improve, he understands that he could enhance his game from a defensive perspective. He committed an NL-high 12 errors last year and successfully retired 24 percent of those opponents who attempted to steal a base against him -- a mark that remained on par with his previous seasons.

Still, as long as McCann continues producing the offensive numbers that have been present throughout the early years of his career, there won't be many people nitpicking about his defense.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.