GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- While awaiting his turn to step into the batting cage, Michael Brantley peered over to a row of mounds at the Indians' complex Monday morning. The outfielder watched Josh Tomlin work through a few warmup pitches and then began heckling his teammate a field away."Yeah, throw that
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- While awaiting his turn to step into the batting cage, Michael Brantley peered over to a row of mounds at the Indians' complex Monday morning. The outfielder watched Josh Tomlin work through a few warmup pitches and then began heckling his teammate a field away.
"Yeah, throw that one!" Brantley shouted.
Brantley's playful taunts came a few minutes ahead of an important step in his ongoing comeback from the right biceps surgery he underwent in August. On Field 3, Brantley took his place in the batter's box and faced Tomlin and reliever Dan Otero in the left fielder's first live pitching workout of Spring Training. In all, Brantley completed three simulated at-bats.
In his first plate appearance, Brantley unleashed an aggressive swing on the first pitch he saw from Tomlin, missing the ball.
"I expected it," Tomlin said with a laugh. "He joked around about if he hit a home run, he was going to trot around the bases. I wasn't going to let that happen."
In his three trips to the plate, Brantley put the ball in play twice, including a sharp comebacker that was snared by Otero. Brantley simulated counts, fouled off pitches and took breaks between each at-bat. After the workout, the outfielder said he was pleased with how things went. Prior to Monday, Brantley had been limited to batting-practice pitching.
"It was just good. Another stepping stone. Another progression," Brantley said. "It went well. I'm just excited every chance I get to kind of progress. I'm getting anxious to getting back out there with the guys and just being healthy. I'm taking it day by day."
Brantley added that the big swing he took on the first pitch was an important one.
"I had to make sure I got in there a little bit mentally. I just wanted to be aggressive," Brantley explained. "I didn't want to go in there and swing 50 percent. I wanted to make sure I took a good aggressive swing. I was able to do that today, and tomorrow's a new day."
Brantley went through back-to-back BP workouts Friday and Saturday before taking the day off from hitting Sunday. Immediately following his live hitting session Monday, the outfielder said he was not sure whether he would be cleared to hit again Tuesday. Brantley said his daily routine is built around how he feels each morning when he arrives to the complex.
Last season, Brantley was limited to only 11 games for Cleveland due to a series of setbacks involving his right shoulder and biceps. There were multiple points in Brantley's comeback bid last year that saw him complete the early stages of a hitting progression with no issues. Discomfort did not typically set in until Brantley had played in a handful of games in a row.
Given that history, the Indians have been careful not to announce a timetable for Brantley's return to games, or to project whether he is a realistic option for Opening Day. Indians manager Terry Francona has reiterated that proclaiming target dates is not in Brantley's best interest.
"The only reason you try to temper your comments," Francona said, "is because you want to be fair to him. He has worked so hard. I wish people could actually see what he's done, because it's gone so far and above what you would expect somebody to do. ... If this ends up where he's not healthy, there is nothing more that he could have done."
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 listen to his podcast.