LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Brian McCann understands that he is likely at least two months away from being cleared to play in a Major League game. But the Braves catcher was still encouraged with the update he received after his surgically repaired right shoulder was evaluated by the team's orthopedic surgeon Dr. Xavier Duralde on Saturday morning.
"They said everything is on schedule and that everything looks good," McCann said. "The strength looks good."
McCann will attempt to remain patient while going through a long rehab process that will likely keep him out of Atlanta's starting lineup for at least the first two weeks of the regular season. The six-time All-Star catcher was cleared on Saturday to begin hitting balls flipped by coaches or teammates who are positioned just a few feet away. He had been restricted to hitting off a tee over the past couple of weeks.
"Each day, I'm pushing it a little bit more," McCann said. "When I can throw a ball as hard as I can and wake up and not be sore, that will probably be my sign that I'm ready to play in a game."
McCann is slowly regaining arm strength. His throwing program moved him to a distance of 90 feet earlier this week. He completed one set of 15 throws on Tuesday and two sets of 15 on Thursday. He took it a step further by completing two sets of 25 on Saturday.
Freeman's left index finger finally pain-free
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- A frustrated Freddie Freeman went through the final four months of last season wondering when his injured left index finger would allow him to grip a baseball bat in pain-free fashion. He received his answer when he began taking batting practice after the arrival of the new year.
"The first week of January, I was able to make a full fist," Freeman said. "That was when the excitement hit me. I was like, 'Yes, it's fully healthy.' Even when I had been working out, doing curls and other things, I could still feel it in my fingers. But back in [the summer], they were telling me that I wouldn't be able to make a fist until Christmas."
Freeman's left index finger was badly bruised when he was hit with a Jose Reyes throw while sliding with his arm extended toward the former Marlins shortstop on June 6. Freeman played in just seven games of the two weeks that followed, and he felt restricted with his swing during the remainder of the season.
"I started hitting with Dan [Uggla] last month," Freeman said. "It was a lot of fun knowing that I was fully healthy."
Freeman injured his finger around the time he was starting to overcome the vision problems that plagued him throughout May. The 23-year-old first baseman is also happy to say that he has not experienced any recent problems with his eyesight. He has found a comfortable pair of contact lenses that he plans to protect with clear Oakley sunglasses that are expected to arrive within the next two weeks.
Freeman's vision became a problem immediately after he had been named National League Player of the Week for the second time in the season's first five weeks. He batted .298 with six home runs and a .864 OPS in his first 28 games. Burdened by the blurred eyesight and sore finger, he batted . 251 with 17 homers and a .781 OPS in his final 118 games.
Fredi holding off on opening Braves rotation
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- It seems obvious that the Braves will tab either Tim Hudson or Kris Medlen to serve as this year's Opening Day starting pitcher. Manager Fredi Gonzalez will wait a few more weeks to make the decision and determine the best way to strategically align his starting rotation.
"We're going to see how it goes during Spring Training," Gonzalez said. "Opening Day is a special thing. It is a special start for that guy. We're going to wait a couple weeks to make sure everybody is healthy and see how everything develops. It's not just Opening Day, it's the way you're rotation sets up for the next few days."
With the Phillies coming to Atlanta to open the season, the Braves could use one of their two left-handed starters -- Mike Minor or Paul Maholm -- in the second game of the opening series. This could help against left-handed sluggers Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.
But more importantly, this would put the Braves in position to separate the right-handers and left-handers in the rotation.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.