Brian McCann has never been in this situation. Three days before Braves pitchers and catchers report to spring training, the six-time former All-Star is not ready to play ball. Not until his surgically repaired right shoulder is healed and re-strengthened, which should be some point in the first month of the season.

His recovery from October surgery is going well, on schedule with no setbacks. But for now, if anyone gives a more specific return date than “some point in April,” he’s probably just hoping or guessing, or repeating something said by someone else who was hoping or guessing.

“Just started hitting off a tee," said McCann, who is aiming for a return as soon as he's cleared to play, probably around April 15. "I started throwing last week, from 45 feet. Sixty feet this week. I’ve thrown a total of six times. Next week hopefully at 90 feet, and just go from there. I’ve got to build my arm strength back up.”

He added, “My shoulder feels really good.”

McCann is doing his best to temper excitement, at least publicly. But there’s something distinct in his voice. Confidence. Determination.

The five-time former Silver Slugger Award winner is entering a $12 million team-option year on his contract, with no assurances whatsoever that he’ll be re-signed. Here is a local guy with deep roots in the community, a player who’ll be 29 on Feb. 20. There is a lot that could be rattling around McCann’s mind, but he says he’s focused on rehab.

A few years ago, this wasn’t how most of us envisioned this going down. Once considered the future face of the franchise, McCann might hit the free-agent market next winter if the Braves determine that strong-armed prospect Christian Bethancourt can hit enough to be their catcher sooner than later.