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Indians trying to give players regular rest

MLB.com

CLEVELAND -- Indians All-Star left fielder Michael Brantley received a day off Saturday, a regularly-scheduled day of rest.

Brantley has dealt with lower back soreness off-and-on throughout the season, and didn't play the field in Friday's game. But the day of rest is as much a part of a larger initiative by the Indians to keep their players fresh as it is about Brantley's health, specifically.

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CLEVELAND -- Indians All-Star left fielder Michael Brantley received a day off Saturday, a regularly-scheduled day of rest.

Brantley has dealt with lower back soreness off-and-on throughout the season, and didn't play the field in Friday's game. But the day of rest is as much a part of a larger initiative by the Indians to keep their players fresh as it is about Brantley's health, specifically.

Full Game Coverage

"It's not fun not writing his name in the lineup," manager Terry Francona said. "It would be a lot less fun not writing it for a while because I got greedy."

"I just told him, 'Hey, sleep in, relax, and just get yourself ready to maybe pinch-hit in about the seventh,' … and I'll do the same with [Jason Kipnis] here probably pretty soon. I've talked to him, too. They're both really good about communicating back with me, and it helps me."

St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter received a four-game break earlier in the month due simply to "extreme fatigue." A situation like that is what the Indians hope to avoid, with any of their players. As we learn more and more about athlete bodies and recovery times, regularly-scheduled days of rest for star players could become more common across the league.

As MLB.com columnist Anthony Castrovince noted last week, the iron man is becoming a thing of the past in today's game. And the Indians are on board.

"You want your guys to be in there," Francona said. "But you don't want to ever go too far, because once you do, you can't take it back"

Francona mentioned that the Indians have been arguably the league's most balanced team, in terms of playing time, this season, and the numbers back that statement up.

The Indians have 11 players who have received at least 70 plate appearances this season, a number matched only by the Rays in the American League. This shows they're spreading the playing time around. They also have just three players with more than 150 plate appearances, matched only by the Orioles in the AL, indicating that they're not putting too heavy a workload on too many guys.

And a lot of that balance is naturally dictated by the matchups. The Indians have run platoons throughout the year with righties Ryan Raburn and Mike Aviles and lefties David Murphy and Lonnie Chisenhall. Not only does this help keep players fresh, but it also puts them in the best situation for success. As a team, the Indians have held the platoon advantage in 72 percent of plate appearances this season, the second-highest mark in baseball.

"They may not play always, as much as they want, and I totally understand that," Francona said. "But you take your roster and you try to put the best team out there, knowing that you're dealing with people. I always try to look ahead and have a reason for doing what I'm doing because they're our responsibility, and I care about it."

August Fagerstrom is an associate reporter for MLB.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cleveland Indians, Michael Brantley