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Back issue keeps Brantley out of Indians' lineup

HOUSTON -- With the season being so young, the Indians do not want to take any chances and potentially lose All-Star left fielder Michael Brantley for any longer than necessary.

On Thursday, Brantley remained out of the starting lineup for the second straight game due to a back issue that has flared up intermittently since early in Spring Training. The discomfort returned prior to Wednesday's game, convincing Cleveland manager Terry Francona to hold Brantley out for now.

"He's OK. He's a little stiff," Francona said on Thursday morning. "We'll try to stay away from him today and get him looked at tomorrow morning, just to try to get a little more clarity. I think the doctors have all looked at it and think they've got a bead on it."

Brantley will be examined on Friday morning after the team returns to Cleveland, but his status for the home opener against the Tigers is in flux.

Early in the preseason, Brantley was held out of certain activities when the back issue arose. The outfielder recovered enough to appear in 15 Cactus League games -- posting a .364 average in those contests -- but he was forced to miss five games in late March when the lower back pain resurfaced. Francona noted that Brantley felt fine early on Wednesday, making the Indians a little "perplexed" by the injury.

"It just kind of keeps acting up on him," Francona said. "Hopefully, the more information we can get, the better feel we have, and then we'll get him back out there playing."

With Brantley out again on Thursday, veteran outfielder David Murphy took over in left field for the Tribe.

Last season, Brantley earned a Silver Slugger Award and finished third in the American League Most Valuable Player Award voting after batting .327 with 20 homers, 23 stolen bases, 45 doubles, 94 runs and 97 RBIs in 156 games for the Tribe.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian.
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