CLEVELAND -- Cleveland Indians outfielder Michael Brantley spent much of the last two years rehabbing from shoulder surgeries that cut short the 2015 and 2016 seasons, the latter of which saw the franchise return to the World Series for the first time since 1997.
But that hard work and heartache has paid off, as Brantley, along with four teammates and Cleveland’s coaching staff, will represent the Indians at the 2017 Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Marlins Park in Miami, Florida on July 11.
“On so many levels, it’s such a good story,” Indians manager Terry Francona said after the announcement was made.
“It was probably the one guy. I tried not to get emotional out there because I don’t want to embarrass myself, but because I know what he went through, and I don’t think he needs vindication or whatever, boy, what a nice honor.”
Healthy for the first time in nearly three years after back-to-back injury-shortened seasons, Brantley returned to his All-Star form and smacked 69 hits in 232 at-bats (.297 batting average) with 15 doubles, five home runs, 31 runs batted in, 27 runs scored, 22 walks against 38 strikeouts and eight stolen bases.
Now a two-time MLB All-Star, Brantley ranks in the Indians’ top 10 in nearly every offensive statistical category.
“You talk about somebody that’s deserving?” Francona said. “All last year while we were on that playoff run, he was back in the training room doing his stuff. That’s not real glamourous to do. He stayed there during the winter, and now, he gets to represent the Indians as an All-Star. That’s incredible.”
Prior to the season-opener against the Texas Rangers back in April, it had been nearly a year to the day that Brantley last played at the Major League level because of shoulder issues.
Last season, Brantley tried to rehabilitate his shoulder injury, something he thought was addressed with offseason surgery in November of 2015. However, every time Brantley went through the progression, he was unable to come through minor-league starts without setbacks.
Brantley was officially shut down in August when he had to undergo another surgery.
In just 11 games in 2016, Brantley registered nine hits over 39 at-bats, including two doubles, with seven runs batted in, five runs scored, three walks and one stolen base. But when healthy, Brantley has shown an ability to be one of the best hitters in baseball.
In 2014, Brantley was the first player in the 114-year history of the franchise, and ninth player in MLB annals, to have 200 hits, and at least 45 doubles, 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in the same season. Brantley was the ninth member of the Indians’ 20-home run, 20-steals club, and the first Cleveland player since 1996 to reach the 200-hit plateau.
During that 2014 season, Brantley finished second in the American League in hits (200), third in batting average (.327) and doubles (45), fourth in on-base percentage (.385), tied for sixth in runs scored (94), seventh in on-base plus slugging percentage (.890), 11th in steals (23) and 12th in RBI (97).
“It’s very special,” said shortstop Francisco Lindor, who will join Brantley at the 2017 MLB All-Star Game. “Seeing him day-in and day-out, and having him standing there next to me is going to be fun.
“I’m going to be following him the whole, entire time and just enjoying this experience with him. He deserves it. He’s working very hard. After two tough shoulder surgeries and being off for a year-and-a-half, he shows how good of a player he is.”