CLEVELAND -- Outfielder Michael Brantley faced plenty of questions along the comeback trail after each of his last two seasons were short-circuited because of setbacks and a pair of surgeries to his shoulder that had many wondering whether he could return to being an every-day player for the Cleveland Indians.
But Brantley fought through the doubts and made such a successful comeback that he was selected to represent the American League in the 2017 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, which will be played at Marlins Park in Miami, Florida, tonight.
“You always have doubts, especially when it took me so long,” Brantley said. “I had one surgery, and then, I had to have another, but at the same time, I wanted to stay confident that I would (come back).
“I have a great influence in my family and friends that were all staying positive for me, and I’m lucky to be back here again with all these great players.”
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 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 Cleveland’s 20-home run, 20-steals club, and the first Indians 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).
Healthy for the first time in nearly three years after the 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.
And now, after returning to the role of every-day player, Brantley has the chance to partner with four of his teammates -- starter Corey Kluber, reliever Andrew Miller, shortstop Francisco Lindor and starting third baseman Jose Ramirez -- and the Indians’ coaching staff for the 2017 MLB All-Star Game.
“It’s awesome,” Brantley said. “In ’14, I came by myself, so to have four other players with me to share this experience, it’s going to be special.”