GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The right shoulder is a critical component of the swing mechanics for a left-handed hitter. The lead arm helps keep the bat steady through the strike zone, and any give with the shoulder can turn a well-struck line drive into a weak fly ball or grounder.During Michael
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The right shoulder is a critical component of the swing mechanics for a left-handed hitter. The lead arm helps keep the bat steady through the strike zone, and any give with the shoulder can turn a well-struck line drive into a weak fly ball or grounder.
During Michael Brantley's ongoing comeback from November surgery on his right shoulder, Indians hitting coach Ty Van Burkleo has kept a close eye on the left fielder's swing, especially when it comes to the follow through after contact. From Day 1 in the batting cage to Saturday's Cactus League debut, Van Burkleo has seen a strong, stable swing.
• Indians Spring Training info
"At the end of last year, he'd get to a certain point and kind of tighten it up and hold it in," Van Burkleo said on Sunday morning. "He'd kind of alligator-arm that lead arm a little bit. He wouldn't get that full extension. Now, he's able to get through the ball and has no problems. His swing looks Michael Brantley-esque again."
On Saturday night, Brantley went 1-for-3 with a two-run home run -- plus an outfield assist from left field (he throws with his left arm) -- in his first official game of the spring for the Indians. It was an encouraging showing that continued to fuel the growing optimism that Brantley might defy the odds and be ready in time for Cleveland's Opening Day tilt against the Red Sox on April 4 at Progressive Field.
Van Burkleo thought Brantley's swings in Saturday's 10-5 win over the Cubs looked great.
"He's had no pain, which is key," Van Burkleo said. "The first pitch he sees, he hits 405 feet. Two at- bats later, he hits a homer off a 97-mph fastball. You've got to be pretty encouraged with that."
Indians manager Terry Francona noted that Brantley felt some "normal first-game soreness" on Sunday, but was scheduled to return to the field for Monday's home game against the White Sox.
Francona said the medical staff and front office have yet to consider a transition to Minor League games after Friday, which is the cutoff for making a disabled-list stint as retroactive as possible. Any Cactus League appearance after that point would push Brantley's eligibility date deeper into April.
"We really haven't discussed that," Francona said. "If we get to a point where we need to talk about that, we can. I just think that he's doing so well. We'll just let him continue to do well."
Francona said he has been blown away by Brantley's work behind the scenes.
"I'm going to be surprised probably if there are some setbacks," Francona said. "The volume and the intensity, the way he's gone about things, [has been impressive]. I think it's almost more of I was hoping that he'd be confident enough to go ahead and let it go [on Saturday], and obviously, he was.
"I know I've said it, but he's just done an unbelievable job at this. He's just attacked this rehab. The day he went to his first Minor League game about four days ago, I know a handful of guys went down to watch. That tells you a lot right there. They might've been heckling him, but he's pretty well-thought-of in that room, as he should be."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast.