Cleveland Indians outfielder Michael Brantley continues to make progress on the road to recovery, and he will take another big one today when he takes the field for a minor-league game, his first in-game action since July of last year.
Brantley was sidelined since last August because of a second surgery on his shoulder, which has given him issues for each of the last two seasons.
“He is going to play in a minor-league game (today), and then, he’s going to play in another minor-league game on Friday,” Indians manager Terry Francona said.
“I don’t know how many innings they have him scheduled for, but there still has to be a progression, and that’s what we’ll do. I think the trainers felt like a minor-league game is probably the next best step. I think he’s going to play left field.”
Cleveland Indians' Michael Brantley progressing well from shoulder surgery
Brantley has not played a game at the Major League level since last May because of shoulder issues, but the 2014 American League All-Star and Silver Slugger Award winner is working his way back toward the lineup as the team ramps up workouts in spring training.
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.
“It’s been identical, actually,” Francona said of Brantley’s rehabilitation plan as compared to the one after last year’s offseason shoulder surgery. “Every time he handles a milestone or a marker, he moves on and not until. That’s exactly what he did last year.”
Brantley took several swings on Sunday, and according to Francona, there were plenty of good signs out of the work session.
“By all accounts, it was normal, which is a really good thing,” Francona said. “I think that’s what you’re looking for.”
In just 11 games with the Indians last season, 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 Indians 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).
And if Brantley can prove to the Indians that his health will not be a long-term issue, he will be in the lineup as often as possible.
“We want Brantley to play,” Francona said. “If he’s healthy, he’s not platooning with anybody.”