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Brantley (ankle) questionable for Opening Day

Indians taking 'longer view' with outfielder, won't rush him back
MLB.com @MLBastian

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- While a few of the position players who reported early to camp took part in batting practice Thursday morning, Michael Brantley stood at the edge of the weight room at the team's complex. The Indians outfielder peered out at the diamond, where teammates fed off BP fastballs.

Brantley is once again on the comeback trail, hoping to rejoin the regular spring schedule rather than working through a detailed program provided by the medical and training staff. Following surgery on his right ankle in October, Brantley is behind the pack this preseason and his availability for Opening Day is questionable.

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- While a few of the position players who reported early to camp took part in batting practice Thursday morning, Michael Brantley stood at the edge of the weight room at the team's complex. The Indians outfielder peered out at the diamond, where teammates fed off BP fastballs.

Brantley is once again on the comeback trail, hoping to rejoin the regular spring schedule rather than working through a detailed program provided by the medical and training staff. Following surgery on his right ankle in October, Brantley is behind the pack this preseason and his availability for Opening Day is questionable.

"We want to make sure we're taking a longer view," Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said Thursday. "The thing we're most focused on is, 'How do we have the best version of Michael Brantley for as much of the season as possible?' If that's Opening Day, great. If it's not, that's fine, too.

"As we saw last year, when he's healthy, he's still a really good player. And we're looking forward to Michael contributing in that way for us whenever he's ready to go."

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Brantley, who was limited to 90 games last year due to the ankle injury, is able to take part in long toss and do limited hitting activities inside the batting cage. The left fielder's running is limited to straight-ahead jogging for now.

"He's progressed well and met every benchmark across the way this offseason," Antonetti said. "We'll know more as he tests his ankle out more and progresses to turning and cutting and quick movements. Then, we'll have a better sense of a timetable from there."

Francona leaves team

Indians manager Terry Francona was on hand for Thursday's morning workout, but will be away from Arizona through Sunday afternoon after the death of his father. Tito Francona, who played for the Indians from 1959-64, died Tuesday night at his home in New Brighton, Pa. He was 84.

Video: Justice discusses Tito Francona Sr.'s legacy

Antonetti was happy to see the manager stay for the team's first official workout.

"He'll tell you, he's most comfortable on a baseball field and in a baseball clubhouse," Antonetti said. "That's really where he wants to be and where he's happiest. So, it's a really difficult time for him and an emotional time, given the relationship that he had with his dad, but he really enjoyed being on the field today."

Other medical updates

• Right-hander Cody Anderson is 10 1/2 months removed from Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow and has built up to 150 feet in long toss. Anderson is scheduled to throw off a mound Saturday. Said Antonetti: "That was one of the cool meetings, just for Cody to see the light at the end of the tunnel. He's been through a lot and he's now seeing the end of that rehab process."

• Outfielder Brandon Guyer, who had surgery to repair his left wrist extensor tendon in October, has been cleared for all throwing and outfield-specific work. He will be re-examined next week to determine his readiness to begin a hitting program.

• Outfielder Bradley Zimmer (fractured left hand) and third baseman Yandy Diaz (right groin strain) are both fully recovered from their injuries and unrestricted this spring.

• Right-hander Adam Plutko, who is recovering from right hip surgery in October, has resumed throwing off a mound and is on track to resume game activity by early March.

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