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Brantley likely to play Opening Day for Tribe

Barring any setbacks, outfielder will be in lineup against Rangers
MLB.com @MLBastian

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The paperwork is not done, but the work has been completed by Michael Brantley. That is how Indians manager Terry Francona described the situation on Friday, when asked whether the left fielder would be on the team's Opening Day roster.

Brantley, who is coming back from a pair of surgeries to address right arm issues, will travel with the Indians to Texas for Monday's Opening Day against the Rangers. Barring anything unexpected, Brantley should be on the roster and in the lineup.

Full Game Coverage

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The paperwork is not done, but the work has been completed by Michael Brantley. That is how Indians manager Terry Francona described the situation on Friday, when asked whether the left fielder would be on the team's Opening Day roster.

Brantley, who is coming back from a pair of surgeries to address right arm issues, will travel with the Indians to Texas for Monday's Opening Day against the Rangers. Barring anything unexpected, Brantley should be on the roster and in the lineup.

Full Game Coverage

"We don't have to announce our roster [until Sunday]," Francona said. "But, it's not like it's going to be a big secret. We're not trying to keep it a secret. I mean, we're taking 25 guys, and he's one of them."

Being a part of an Opening Day lineup is nothing new for Brantley. He was included in six straight season-opening orders from 2010-15 before injuries got in the way. Brantley remembers the nerves he felt in his first Opening Day. If his name is announced as expected on Monday, he doesn't know what emotions to expect.

"I don't know how I'm going to feel that day," Brantley said. "Just knowing how hard I worked, and how we worked, to get back to this situation. Nothing was guaranteed, nothing was promised. It was a lot of hard work that paid off. I'm just very appreciative of everything that everyone has done to get me to this level again."

Video: CLE@ARI: Brantley plates Diaz with a groundout

On Friday afternoon, Brantley headed out to the batting cage, where he worked with his dad, former big leaguer Mickey Brantley, for over an hour. No one knows Brantley, or his swing, better than his father.

"Right now, his swing's looking pretty good," Mickey Brantley said. "Mentally, he's ready. I told him, 'Are you ready?' I'm asking him. He said, 'Pops, I'm ready.' He doesn't know what to expect, missing that much time. But he's in a good place right now."

In eight spring games entering Friday's exhibition finale vs. the D-backs at Chase Field, Brantley has hit at a .385 (10-for-26) clip with a pair of home runs. On Thursday, the outfielder completed a stretch of three consecutive games, marking the third time this spring that he played multiple games in a row. Each time, Brantley recovered with no issues.

One year ago, Brantley encountered setbacks with his right shoulder after advancing to the consecutive-games portion of his rehab. The left fielder underwent right shoulder surgery in November 2015, appeared in only 11 games last season and then was shelved after having right biceps surgery in August.

Cleveland put Brantley on a program this spring to gradually build up the volume of his hitting, and he responded well to each benchmark along the way.

"I didn't put any expectations on anything," Brantley said. "I just wanted to make sure that I came in with a clean slate every day and communicated the best I could about how I felt. And I kept challenging myself. Small steps at a time, but everything went well, and I feel blessed and fortunate to be out there with my teammates Opening Day. I'm very excited about it."

Francona offered some advice to Brantley this week, too.

"I said, 'Take a minute and enjoy this,'" Francona said. "'You went without baseball for a long time, and you missed it. Enjoy it.' Because, he's always pushing, which is what good players do. But I want him to take a second and enjoy having the game back, because it's so meaningful to him."

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.

 

Cleveland Indians, Michael Brantley