Part I, with Brian McCann, Macay McBride, and Chuck James. Chipper coming in a little bit. Thanks again to B.B. Abbott for setting this up and carrying it out, and of course to the players.

Brian McCann
Do you still expect to catch John Smoltz this year, or will Todd Pratt take over those chores? — Corey

Whatever Bobby wants to do, I will go with. It was such an honor having that chance last year. It was awesome. I would like to catch and play as much as possible, so I hope that this happens.

Will you be platooned with Pratt, or will he be assigned one pitcher to work with? — Mac

I honestly don’t know. I’m still learning this thing, too, so whatever Bobby wants me to do, I will do. Things have moved quickly, and I’m sure Bobby isn’t even sure yet. I hope I can play as much as possible.

Another question for Brian McCann: We all watched and cringed at the collision between Johnny Estrada and Darin Erstad last year, and saw what it did to his health (and his play, if you buy into that; you may not want to throw him under the bus and I understand that). Has anything like that ever happened to you, and what does it do to you as a catcher? How do you prepare and practice for hits like that, and do you enjoy it or just tolerate it as part of the job? — Jenny

You definitely cannot think about those things. I know it is part of the game, and is a possibility everytime I put on the gear. But, once that enters into your mind, you aren’t going to be as good. You can’t practice or prepare. You just have to do your job.

What part of your game do you feel we will all see rapidly improve this coming season, now that you have earned the opportunity to start full time? — Chris

I have really worked on my quickness so far this off-season. I am doing a quick-twitch program right now. I want to improve my runners’ thrown out percentage. I am going to work on my release and footwork a lot after the first of the year. I need to get better there.

What steps, if any, are you taking this offseason to improve your ability to control the opponent’s running game? — Joey T

See above.

Besides “neat,”how did it feel to hit the huge homer off the Rocket? I actually love the “neat” answer you gave but now that you’ve had 2 months to think about it, do you care to elaborate? — Matt in Boston

Not really. It was just awesome. Something you dream about. I mean, the guy was an unbelievable big league pitcher when I was in elementary school. It was like a dream.

You throw righthanded, of course, but hit lefty. Is this just the way that hitting came naturally to you? Did you ever consider switch-hitting? — Mac

No, I never really was a switch-hitter. I just picked up the bat and hit left-handed. My dad encouraged me from there and worked extremely hard with me. I can’t imagine hitting some of these breaking balls from the right side. Lefties have been hard enough for me.

What do you think of the possibility of being a closer? — Jenny

I don’t think about that too much. I am just looking for a chance to pitch in the big leagues. I will do whatever they tell me to.

According to Baseball America, you allowed a higher ratio of fly balls to ground balls than almost every other pitcher in the minors. Why do you think that was? — Kyle S.

Ha, I have no idea. I go out and try to get guys out. If I am getting guys out, I’m happy. Fly balls include pop ups, too, and I had quite a few of those. That does not concern me at all. That is, as long as they are staying in the park!

Left-handed hitters had almost zero success against you. How do you change your approach when facing a lefty, and what do you think are the main contributing factors to your success against them? — Kyle S.

I don’t change my approach at all. I’m told that my delivery is deceptive and that left-handed hitters have a hard time seeing the ball out of my hand. I guess that’s it.

Do you think you have a chance at the 2006 Major League rotation? — Joey T.

I don’t know. I am just going to go out and try to get guys out. I’m going to try to pitch my game and I know that other stuff will eventually work itself out. It will be a great opportunity when it happens. I’ll be ready.

You were moved up and down some last year. Do you think this is a good idea for a player’s development? — Jenny

I think it is necessary sometimes. With a team that is in the race every year, that is how you are going to get your chance sometimes. You take it how you can, you know? In a perfect world, you would want to break camp with the big team, but if you get called up during the year, you must be doing something right.

When you were drafted, did the Braves tell you you would eventually move to the bullpen? — Stephen

No. I always wanted to be a starter, and I think that is what they originally drafted me as. Heck, I think most guys are drafted that way. But, my dream was to pitch in the big leagues and that is happening now. I am going to try to contribute in whatever way I can. If they want me to start, I will. If they need me in the pen, I’m there.

What is the most difficult part about transitioning from the rotation to the bullpen? — Chris

Different mindset. You can impact the game in different ways. Many times, you are coming in with the game on the line or needing to hold a lead (or keep a deficit small). One run seems significant. It takes some getting used to.

We were trying to come up with a nickname for you during the season and arrived at “K-Mac”. What do you think? — Joey T.

The guys already call me Mac, so maybe if I strike out a few more guys, it will stick. Usually you don’t get too many “good” nicknames, but that one sounds good to me.

Both Pitchers

Are you looking forward to working with McDowell? Do you think his experience as a pitcher will help you out any? — ‘Rissa

CHUCK: I hope to get the chance to work with him very soon. I hear good things about him. MACAY: I think his experience in the pen is going to really help me. I am very excited about working with Coach McDowell.

(EdoRiver, can you email me at warliberal -at- yahoo -dot- com? – Mac)