Brantley remains out; Tribe targets Friday return
Medical specialists examining outfielder's lower back pain extensively
CLEVELAND -- Indians All-Star outfielder Michael Brantley remained out of Tuesday's starting lineup against the White Sox with a lower back issue, and there is a chance he'll miss both games of the series at Progressive Field.
Indians manager Terry Francona said before Tuesday's game that Cleveland's scheduled off-day on Thursday could sway the club to keep Brantley out of Wednesday's contest. If the left fielder does not run into any setbacks, he might be cleared to return to the lineup for Friday's game in Minnesota.
"I think he's really trending in a good way," Francona said on Tuesday. "If you see him playing tomorrow, he's perfect. Because, with the day off [Thursday], we want to make sure we get him going in the right direction and keep him going in the right direction."
According to Francona, the 27-year-old Brantley has been "looked at extensively" by medical experts, including by a specialist not on the team's staff. Cleveland remains optmistic about the outfielder's chances of avoiding a trip to the disabled list, even though the back stiffness has sidelined him for five of the team's first seven games.
Brantley was held out of certain activities early in Spring Training due to the back issue, which also flared up in late March and cost him a handful of games. The left fielder played in the final week of spring games and was in the lineup on Opening Day as well as Cleveland's home opener on Friday, when the issue most recently surfaced again.
In 156 games last season, Brantley hit .327 with 20 home runs, 23 stolen bases, 45 doubles, 94 runs scored, 97 RBIs and 200 hits to become a first-time All-Star. The outfielder picked up an American League Silver Slugger Award for his breakout showing and finished third in voting for the AL Most Valuable Player Award.