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Brantley reacts to 3rd All-Star selection

Miller throws 'pen session; Club weighing next step with Olson
MLB.com @MLBastian

CLEVELAND -- Michael Brantley heard the criticism floating around during the offseason in the wake of the Indians' decision to pick up his option for this year. It was never about Brantley's skills as a hitter, but a list of injury issues kept the veteran outfielder off the field for the bulk of the past two seasons.

Prior to Monday's game against the Reds, Brantley stood flanked by reporters in front of his locker, having been named to the American League All-Star team one day earlier. This season, Brantley, who was voted into the Midsummer Classic by his peers, has been a fixture in the lineup, shown no ill effects from his injury history and he has quieted any lingering critics in the process.

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CLEVELAND -- Michael Brantley heard the criticism floating around during the offseason in the wake of the Indians' decision to pick up his option for this year. It was never about Brantley's skills as a hitter, but a list of injury issues kept the veteran outfielder off the field for the bulk of the past two seasons.

Prior to Monday's game against the Reds, Brantley stood flanked by reporters in front of his locker, having been named to the American League All-Star team one day earlier. This season, Brantley, who was voted into the Midsummer Classic by his peers, has been a fixture in the lineup, shown no ill effects from his injury history and he has quieted any lingering critics in the process.

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"I'm very thankful that I'm back here," Brantley said. "I feel like I'm doing pretty well so far. So, hopefully they made a good decision, right? At the same time, it's a blessing to be out there. It's the hard work that I put in. It's the confidence that they had in me that I was going to be able to come back, stay on the field, produce at a high level and impact this club to winning ballgames.

"So far, so good. We've got a long way to go still, and we've got a postseason to hopefully run through."

Brantley is one of five Indians players selected to the AL squad for the 89th MLB All-Star Game presented by Mastercard, which will take place on July 17 at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. Joining Brantley will be third baseman Jose Ramirez, shortstop Francisco Lindor and starters Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer. A lot has changed for the Tribe since 2014, when Brantley attended his first All-Star Game as Cleveland's lone representative.

"My first year, I was by myself," said Brantley, who is a three-time All-Star. "I was a lot more quiet. Now, you can joke with the guys. You have your boys with you. You get to enjoy the experience a little bit more."

Five Indians make 2018 AL All-Star team

Brantley finished third in voting for the AL Most Valuable Player Award in 2014 and posted similar numbers across the board in '15, though his season ended early due to right shoulder woes. Complications with that injury limited the outfielder to just 11 games in '16 and a severe right ankle setback plagued Brantley's campaign a year ago. He played in 90 games in '17 and had offseason surgery, but the Indians still exercised his $12 million team option.

Shortly into April, Brantley came off the disabled list, and he has not looked back. Through 77 games played, the left fielder has turned in a .306/.351/.490 slash line to go with 11 homers, 23 doubles, 47 runs, 49 RBIs and nearly as many walks (22) as strikeouts (30). Brantley leads the Majors in contact rate (89.7 percent) and contact rate on pitches in the strike zone (96.6 percent).

"We were betting on him," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "We saw him first-hand, the work he was putting in to be healthy. I pulled him aside [after telling Brantley he made the All-Star team Sunday] and told him, I said, 'You take a minute and take this in, because you spent so much time back there working.' He was miserable, and now he's an All-Star again. That's pretty special."

Brantley was indeed savoring the selection.

"I don't take it for granted," he said. "There's a lot of bumps in the road, a lot of highs, a lot of lows. You just kind of sit back when it's done and just kind of embrace it. It's not every day you get to go put on an All-Star uniform."

Worth noting

• Lefty Andrew Miller (10-day DL, right knee) threw a 29-pitch bullpen session on Monday and is scheduled to throw off the game mound at Progressive Field on Wednesday, per Francona. Throwing on the main mound will allow the Indians to gather Statcast™ data about Miller's mechanics, velocity and movement. If that goes well, Miller might be cleared to face hitters in a simulated setting on Saturday.

• Lefty Tyler Olson (10-day DL, left lat strain) completed back-to-back Minor League rehab outings on Friday and Saturday with Triple-A Columbus and met with Francona on Monday. The Indians are currently weighing whether the next step for Olson will be activation or having him throw another bullpen session. "He's going to be back with us pretty soon," Francona said.

• Triple-A catcher Francisco Mejia, the Indians' No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline, left Sunday's game after being hit on the right forearm with a pitch. The team noted that Mejia sustained a contusion and is day to day.

"He's OK," Francona said. "He had gotten hit the day before in the same spot catching, and he had gotten hit in the same spot a few days before that. So, I think it just hurts."

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