ATLANTA -- After missing the final two games of the weekend series against the Marlins, Brian McCann returned to the lineup on Monday night with the hope that he had taken the steps necessary to avoid the lingering discomfort in his right knee that plagued him last year.
When McCann awoke on Thursday, he felt some discomfort on the outside portion of the knee. The feeling was similar to what he experienced late last season, when he found it difficult to block balls, frame pitches and perform other defensive activities that force him to place added strain on the knee.
The difference this year is that the Braves have built a comfortable lead atop the National League East. Last year, McCann felt the need to play through the discomfort in an attempt to help his club reach the postseason.
After taking advantage of Thursday's scheduled off-day, McCann recorded two hits in Friday night's win over the Marlins. But with the pain lingering, he was limited to one pinch-hit appearance during the final two games of the series.
"If I played any other position, I wouldn't have a problem," McCann said. "I've dealt with it before. I didn't want it to turn into anything worse with a [big] lead. I know last year I tried to play through it, and I got to a point where I was having a hard time falling to my knees to block balls. It just didn't seem logical to do that this year."
McCann believes that the recent discomfort is a product of playing on what he describes as a "really, really hard" surface behind the plate at Nationals Park.
"When you twist and you go down to block [in Washington], there is no give," he said.
J-Up reaches out to BTS participant Bryan
ATLANTA -- When Justin Upton left Turner Field after Saturday night's 1-0 loss to the Marlins, he was feeling somewhat frustrated about the fact that he'd bid adieu to his season-long 13-game hitting streak in a game that ended the Braves' 14-game winning streak.
But the truly disheartening consequence was revealed to him about an hour later, when he learned that his hitless performance had cost Atlanta-area resident Will Bryan a chance to become an instant millionaire through MLB.com's Beat the Streak competition.
Upton's girlfriend has followed BTS' leaders throughout the season and knew that Bryan had compiled a 47-game streak, putting him 10 picks shy of the total needed to win $5.6 million. When she looked to see how Bryan fared on Saturday, she learned that he had chosen Upton to get a hit that day and extend the streak.
When she relayed this information to Upton, he immediately began thinking of ways to provide consolation to Bryan, a 30-year-old police officer who had successfully chosen Atlanta players 21 times during his run.
"I felt terrible," Upton said. "I had been hot. It was a pretty safe pick. But I just didn't get it done that night. If there is any consolation, hopefully I can have him come out and hopefully catch a game or something."
Upton's representatives reached out to Bryan on Monday afternoon to invite him, his wife and his two children to Friday night's game against the Nationals. Details of the arrangement have not yet been completed, but there likely will be an opportunity for Bryan and Upton to meet before the game.
"I'm just completely starstruck," Bryan said. "Here I was, playing a silly game on the computer, and now I am getting all of this attention. It's great."
Upton entered Saturday's game hitting .331 in his previous 31 games and .426 during his hitting streak.
Though Bryan fell short in his bid to win the ultimate prize, he is in line to win the $10,000 prize that will be awarded to the BTS participant who compiles this season's longest streak. His 47-game streak is two games longer than any other compiled this year.
If you want in on the fun, visit mlb.com/bts or download Beat the Streak, presented by Dunkin' Donuts, from the Apple app store or through Google Play. Participation is free.
Braves weighing options in regard to Maholm
ATLANTA -- The Braves are optimistic about sending left-hander Paul Maholm on a rehab assignment as early as this weekend after he threw an encouraging 79-pitch session at Turner Field on Monday afternoon.
Pitching to Paul Janish and Joey Terdoslavich on the field, Maholm simulated the off-and-on strain of six innings of game action without any discomfort in his left wrist, which has sidelined him since his first start after the All-Star break, on July 20.
"Got up and down six times, threw 79 pitches plus 40-something warming up, but he felt great," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I think that we'll wait until tomorrow to see how it feels, and then we'll come up with some kind of schedule for him going on a rehab start someplace, but we'll wait until tomorrow. But for me, getting up and down six times is good."
Maholm's impending return leaves the Braves with a decision to make between a handful of possible options for incorporating him back into the rotation. Alex Wood and Brandon Beachy have shown marked improvement from start to start since being slotted in to replace Maholm and Tim Hudson. In their starts against the Marlins this past weekend, Wood and Beachy combined to pitch 14 scoreless innings, with 13 strikeouts between them.
The tentative timetable Gonzalez laid out on Monday would have Maholm returning to the team during next week's four-game series in St. Louis after one rehab start this weekend. From there the Braves could use him to give their younger arms a start or two off down the stretch, or they could move to a six-man rotation, at the risk of having too many off-days in the schedule knocking their starters off their regular routine.
"We could give somebody a rest and plug Pauly in there and do that if we have to," Gonzalez said. "You could go six-man [rotation]; I haven't looked at the schedule. Do you want to do that and disrupt that? I don't know, we'll see. But if everything goes well, you're still talking nine days from now -- five and then another four after [the rehab start]. You're talking eight or nine days before you make that decision."
Julio Teheran would be one of the most likely candidates to have a start skipped if the Braves decided to go that route. Heading into his start against the Phillies on Monday night, Teheran was eight innings shy of his largest regular-season workload as a professional.
After throwing 137 1/3 innings during the 2012 season, nearly all of which came with Triple-A Gwinnett, Teheran tacked on roughly another 30 in the Dominican Winter League, which the team counted toward his 2012 total when determining how conservative to be with his innings this year. With those figures in mind, Gonzalez appears comfortable with Teheran's pace.
"I think he's fine, because he pitched a lot of innings in Triple-A and also winter ball [last year]," Gonzalez said. "[Pitching coach Roger McDowell] figured the rest of the way is about 196 [innings] or something like that, so that's fine."
The Braves expect a firm decision on Maholm's rehab schedule on Tuesday, but with about nine turns through the rotation left and the looming Sept. 1 expansion of active rosters from 25 to 40, they have the luxury of flexibility in determining his future role.
• Upton was back in the lineup, hitting second, on Monday night after exiting Sunday's game with a cramp in his left hamstring. He felt the muscle tighten after running to first base after a bunt in the fifth inning.
• Reliever Jordan Walden has received treatment over the past two days for his right hand, which was struck by a line drive in the ninth inning of Saturday's 1-0 loss to Miami. He may start playing catch on Tuesday, but his return to the bullpen is likely a few days off.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. Eric Single is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.