CHICAGO -- Given the time lost due to injury last season for Michael Brantley, days off were expected to be part of the Indians outfielder's comeback this year. Instead, Brantley's strong return has made rest days like the one he received Sunday against the White Sox rare.
"We're completely past it," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "It's almost to the point where -- and this is probably wrong -- but you take it for granted. I know I've said it a lot of times before the season and during it early, but the only way this has worked is -- again, I think our medical people are really good -- but it's his work ethic."
Brantley, who was limited to just 11 games a year ago due to right shoulder and biceps problems, has hit .300 with eight homers, 20 doubles, 49 RBIs and 42 runs through 81 games this season. The left fielder made the American League All-Star team and has resumed his role as a reliable offensive weapon in the third spot of Cleveland's lineup.
The only noticeable difference in Brantley's play this year has been a slight drop in his power numbers (.448 slugging percentage, compared to .480 in his last full season in '15) and an increase in swinging strikes (5.2 percent, compared to 3.6 percent for his career). Those offensive elements hardly seem surprising, considering Brantley essentially missed an entire season due to health woes.
Still, Brantley has come back as a .300 hitter and a presence for the Tribe both on and off the field.
"He's given everything he can," Francona said. "Last year, it was such a big dent in us. It's nice to have him back. It's nice to go through a game and you look up and he's standing there. It's a good feeling."
Francona thrilled for Raines
When Francona was called up to the big leagues in 1981, he joined an Expos team that had a rising star in Tim Raines. As Raines' teammate for five seasons, Francona got a front-row seat to the beginning of the former outfielder's incredible career. Needless to say, the Indians manager was happy to see Raines join Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez in the newest Hall of Fame class.
"I don't know why it took so long. I'm a big fan of his," Francona said. "He was one of the best teammates. Guys loved him. When I first got there, he was going through a rough time, but then once he got through that, [he was great]. And to this day, when you see him, he just lights up. I'm really happy for him. I think Andre Dawson really helped him. He really took him under his wing. I'm sure Hawk's really proud right now."
Kipnis' rehab schedule altered
Second baseman Jason Kipnis (10-day disabled list, right hamstring) was scheduled to begin a Minor League rehab assignment with Triple-A Columbus on Saturday, but the Clippers' game against Norfolk was rained out. As a result, Kipnis began his assignment Sunday, playing second base for Columbus. With the Clippers off on Monday, Kipnis' comeback schedule will continue Tuesday.