The Atlanta Braves' lineup for their wild-card game against St. Louis features nine pitchers, including three starters.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez says he wants to have Tim Hudson and Mike Minor available in the bullpen for Friday's game against the Cardinals (5 p.m. ET) in case Kris Medlen has unexpected problems.
Right-hander Cristhian Martinez, who appeared in 54 games and often was effective in long relief, is not on the 25-man roster. Joining closer Craig Kimbrel in the bullpen are left-handers Luis Avilan and Eric O'Flaherty and right-handers Chad Durbin and Cory Gearrin.
Catcher David Ross is expected to start instead of Brian McCann, who has a sore shoulder and sore knee. A third catcher, J.C. Boscan, also is on the roster.
The roster includes eight infielders and five outfielders. McCann, who had 20 home runs and 67 RBIs in 439 at-bats this season, was shocked and upset when informed prior to Wednesday’s regular-season finale at Pittsburgh that Gonzalez was opting for Ross on Friday.
“I wish I was playing, but I’m not,” McCann told reporters. “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.”
In fairness to Gonzalez, McCann has been bothered much of the season by the discomfort caused by a cyst on his right (throwing) shoulder.
Gonzalez also placed a high priority on defence from the catcher’s position, thus his decision to start the stronger Ross, who hit .256 during the regular campaign with nine homers in 176 at-bats.
“It’s one of those things where you feel [Ross] gives you a good chance to win a ball game,” said Gonzalez. “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.”
Gonzalez said he pondered the decision to start Ross for three or four days and overlooked McCann’s success versus St. Louis starter Kyle Lohse (5-for-20, one home run).
Ross, who has one hit in two career at-bats against the Cardinals right-hander, said he’s excited to start a winner-take-all contest.
“I was a little bit uncomfortable until I got a chance to talk to Mac [McCann]. We talked, and now I’m full bore,” he said.
“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.”With files from CBCSports.ca