When Brian McCann underwent Lasik surgery again in October, he proudly stated that he would never again have to wear the glasses that had allowed him to continue playing over the course of the previous five months.
But when McCann returned to the Braves’ lineup after a two-day absence on May 8th, he was once again wearing a pair of with prescription glasses. Over the course of the past two months, the All-Star catcher has been unable to find any other solution to correct the vision problems that he is now experiencing in his right eye.
“I’ve tried every solution that you could find,” McCann said. “There’s not a contact or a drop that makes me feel as good as wearing those glasses.”
After watching McCann strike out a season-high three times against the Nationals on April 28th, Braves manager Bobby Cox couldn’t explain why his productive catcher had hit .196 with four RBIs over the course of his previous 16 games.
Cox received some indication the next day, when McCann revealed that he has been regularly visiting his eye doctor over the past couple of months hoping to correct the blurred vision in his right eye.
David Ross served as Atlanta’s starting catcher during the April 29th series finale in Washington, and he assumed those same duties for the next night’s series opener against the Phillies.
McCann said his decision to keep the issue quiet was based on his desire not to use it as a daily crutch.
“The last thing that I wanted to do is to have it brought up every single day,” McCann said. “It’s not fun to do that. So I was just trying every solution, just trying something that would allow me to be at my best. The glasses were the last resort.”
It marked the second straight year that McCann returned to the lineup on May 8th at Citizens Bank Park wearing glasses. He was forced to start wearing them last year because the vision in his left eye had changed since he had initially underwent Lasik surgery at the end of the 2007 season.
When McCann underwent the surgical procedure again in October, his doctor chose to solely fix the left eye. At the time, the blurred vision in his right eye was slight enough to create the hope that it would fix itself.
“It’s not a big issue,” McCann said. “It’s not that my eyes aren’t taking to the Lasik. It’s the fact that you couldn’t do the surgery on the right eye because it had a chance to go back to where it was.”
Unfortunately for the Braves, having an unproductive McCann in the middle of their lineup has proven to be a big issue. The 26-year-old catcher has tallied nine RBIs and batted just .167 (3-for-18) with runners in scoring position.
The concerns that McCann possessed during Spring Training were minimized by the fact that most of the games were played under the sun’s natural light. Once the regular season began and he started playing under bright stadium lights, he steadily recognized the significance of his vision problem.
McCann has hit .375 in 24 at-bats recorded during day games this year, and just .180 during the 50 at-bats he has collected during night games.
“Day games are fine,” McCann said. “It’s the night games. It’s the time when there’s no lights. That’s the problem.”
The fact that McCann batted .346 during his first nine games of the season was aided by the reality that five of those contests were played in the afternoon. He went 2-for-11 in the night games played during that stretch and, somewhat surprisingly, two of those hits were recorded against Padres left-hander Clayton Richard.
McCann has hit .200 (4-for-20) against left-handed pitchers this year, and .222 dating back to the start of last year. Entering the 2009 season, he owned a .282 career batting average against southpaws.
“It’s been beyond frustrating,” McCann said.
by Mark Bowman