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Brantley could return for Indians' home opener

MLB.com @MLBastian

ANAHEIM -- When the Indians head back to Cleveland later this week, Michael Brantley might be joining them at Progressive Field. There is a chance the All-Star left fielder will be ready to come off the disabled list and make his return to the Tribe's lineup for Friday's home opener against the Royals.

"It could be [realistic]," Indians manager Terry Francona said prior to Monday's game against the Angels. "I think he's in a pretty good spot."

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ANAHEIM -- When the Indians head back to Cleveland later this week, Michael Brantley might be joining them at Progressive Field. There is a chance the All-Star left fielder will be ready to come off the disabled list and make his return to the Tribe's lineup for Friday's home opener against the Royals.

"It could be [realistic]," Indians manager Terry Francona said prior to Monday's game against the Angels. "I think he's in a pretty good spot."

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First things first, the Indians want Brantley to get through a pair of extended spring games at the team's complex in Goodyear, Ariz. Francona noted the left fielder appeared in a game Monday and was scheduled to play in another Tuesday before discussing the next step with the team's athletic training and medical staff.

Brantley is making his way back from right ankle surgery, which was performed in October after the issue limited the outfielder to 90 games last season. During the spring, he was unrestricted with hitting, but did not make his Cactus League debut until March 21 due to a gradual build-up in a running program.

In recent Minor League games, Brantley resumed playing nine innings, while accumulating at-bats. It was a much different scenario this spring when compared to the last two preseasons, when Brantley was dealing with right shoulder and biceps troubles that limited his hitting.

"It felt better for me in the fact of watching him ramp up, because he had hit so much," Francona said. "It wasn't last spring, where we're trying to get him going with the shoulder and it was hard, because you're checking out his at-bats. Like, he can have one here, two here. He was built up so much [this spring] that he could hit really as much as he wanted to."

The Indians placed Brantley on the 10-day disabled list prior to Opening Day, and the left fielder will be eligible for activation in time for Friday's 4:10 p.m. ET home opener in Cleveland. With Brantley on the shelf, Tyler Naquin (Minor League options) began the season on Cleveland's roster as the primary left fielder.

"I've said it so many times," Francona said. "But, because of who [Brantley] is and how he plays, there's so much consistency in his game that you put him out in left field and you know exactly what you're getting. And that's a really good thing."

Worth noting

• Infielder Gio Urshela (10-day DL, right hamstring) will remain in Arizona to continue a baserunning segment in a running program before heading to Triple-A Columbus on a rehab assignment, per Francona.

• Outfielder Abraham Almonte, who was designated for assignment prior to Opening Day, was claimed off waivers by the Royals on Monday.

• Right-hander Ben Taylor, designated for assignment by Cleveland on Thursday, cleared waivers and was sent outright to Triple-A.

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.

Cleveland Indians, Michael Brantley