WASHINGTON -- The Braves would have preferred to have rested backup catcher David Ross for at least one additional day. But with Brian McCann unavailable to play in Sunday afternoon's series finale against the Nationals, they opted to give Ross his first start since he tweaked his right groin on May 25.
"I would say I'm 85-90 percent," Ross said before the game. "I know it's there, but I don't really feel it."
Ross did not experience any problems when he caught the final 1 2/3 innings of Saturday's game after McCann was hit just above the left knee with a pitch thrown by Braves left-handed reliever Jonny Venters. The six-time All-Star catcher immediately exited because he felt his mobility was limited with two runners on base in a tie game.
Ross also got through Sunday's game without problem until being replaced by a pinch-runner in the eighth inning. He had to play it smart when Andrelton Simmons hit a two-out double to the gap in the second inning. Instead of attempting to push himself to score, he was forced to stop at third base.
McCann's hopes of playing on Sunday were dashed when he experienced some swelling around his knee overnight. But after resting on Monday's scheduled off-day, he is expected to return to the lineup for Tuesday's game against the Marlins.
Simmons happy first game's under his belt
WASHINGTON -- Before his Major League debut was postponed by rain on Friday night, Andrelton Simmons said he was willing to accept the playful jabs that he would receive from veteran teammates.
"As long as I'm here, I'm willing to take the teasing for a little bit," said Simmons, who learned on Wednesday that he was being promoted from Double-A Mississippi to replace Tyler Pastornicky as Atlanta's starting shortstop.
Simmons endured some ribbing when he arrived to the ballpark just two hours before the start of Sunday afternoon's game, explaining to some teammates that his cab driver got lost on the way to Nationals Park. Still, the confident 22-year-old shortstop did not seem bothered. He was still excited about the thrill he experienced during his Major League debut on Saturday.
"Just getting on the field, it was pretty cool," Simmons said. "It's not real until you get your first game in. There's a big difference between Spring Training and a regular-season game. I was kind of anxious and wanted to do stuff. But after I got the first ground ball, I was like, 'I've done this before, it's nothing different.'"
Simmons proved flawless with each of the five grounders hit to him and had a chance to show off his strong arm after going to his left to field a ground ball in the eighth inning. He went hitless in three at-bats while drawing the unenviable challenge of facing Stephen Strasburg in his big league debut.
Simmons returned to the park on Sunday to face Gio Gonzalez, who has been one of the National League's top pitchers this year. While playing against the Marlins this coming week in Miami, he will be challenged by Anibal Sanchez, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle.
But he will go into the Marlins series with his first hit already under his belt. He recorded the milestone with a a second-inning double against Gonzalez on Sunday.
"It's a good way to start," Simmons said. "I wouldn't want the easy way out."
Heyward fondly remembers his Draft day
WASHINGTON -- Jason Heyward understands the excitement currently being felt by the top high school and collegiate baseball players in anticipation of the start of this year's First-year Player Draft on Monday. He was in the same position five years ago before learning the Braves took him with the fifth overall selection in the 2007 Draft.
"You're never going to forget that day, ever," Heyward said. "But I would say time definitely flies, especially when you are having fun."
The Braves took advantage of having four of the top 78 selections in the 2007 Draft. With the 33rd overall selection, they nabbed third baseman Jon Gilmore, who was part of the package used to acquire Javier Vazquez before the 2009 season. But the significance of this class was truly enhanced by the decision to take Freddie Freeman with the 78th overall selection.
Freeman and Heyward met each other during their high school days and have played most of the past five years together. "That doesn't happen often for everybody in this game," Heyward said. "It's a business. We'll see how long we end up playing together. But it's just been cool."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.