CLEVELAND -- There were plenty of roadblocks, setbacks and challenges along the comeback trail for Cleveland Indians left fielder Michael Brantley, but through all of the obstacles, he persevered and has thus far made a triumphant return.
That return got a little sweeter Sunday when Brantley was selected as an American League reserve for the 2017 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, which will be played at Marlins Park in Miami, Florida, on Tuesday, July 11.
“Just happy, happy, blessed, appreciative more than anything,” Brantley said after the announcement was made. “I’m appreciative of this opportunity.”
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.
“Hopefully, people know how hard I worked to get back,” Brantley said. “It wasn’t an easy road, two shoulder surgeries, not knowing if you’re going to be able to play again. To be able to represent the Cleveland Indians at the All-Star Game, it means a lot. The hard work paid off.”
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).
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 going to be a special feeling,” Brantley said. “Having your peers amongst you that you work every day, day-in and day-out with being out there with you, hearing their names called as a group, that’s going to be very special. I can’t wait for it.”