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Tribe to activate Brantley for home opener

MLB.com @MLBastian

ANAHEIM -- The only thing that might keep Michael Brantley out of the Indians' lineup for Friday's home opener is the wintry conditions currently sweeping through Cleveland. If nature decides to play along, though, the All-Star left fielder is poised to make his return against the Royals.

Prior to Wednesday's game at Angel Stadium, Indians manager Terry Francona said the team is currently planning on activating Brantley from the 10-day disabled list for Friday's game against Kansas City. Brantley is already in Cleveland and prepping for a return to the field for the Tribe.

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ANAHEIM -- The only thing that might keep Michael Brantley out of the Indians' lineup for Friday's home opener is the wintry conditions currently sweeping through Cleveland. If nature decides to play along, though, the All-Star left fielder is poised to make his return against the Royals.

Prior to Wednesday's game at Angel Stadium, Indians manager Terry Francona said the team is currently planning on activating Brantley from the 10-day disabled list for Friday's game against Kansas City. Brantley is already in Cleveland and prepping for a return to the field for the Tribe.

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"He flew to Cleveland last night, and I talked to him yesterday," Francona said Wednesday. "The plan -- I don't think it's any big secret -- the plan is to activate him. I think just, using good judgment, we'll double-check with him. But, I think everybody's on the same page."

Brantley took part in a pair of extended Spring Training games on Monday and Tuesday, marking the final step in his rehab program at the team's complex in Goodyear, Ariz. Rather than send the left fielder out on a Minor League rehab assignment -- where inclement weather might risk a disruption of his schedule -- the Indians preferred to have Brantley join the Major League team and be around its training and medical staff.

Last season, Brantley was limited to 90 games due to a right ankle injury, which necessitated surgery in October. During the spring, he was unrestricted with his hitting activity, but did not make his Cactus League debut until March 21 due to a gradual build-up in a running program. Brantley appeared in three official spring games (10 at-bats), but accumulated more at-bats and innings in Minor League games as well.

When Brantley is activated, Francona said he will look to build in some scheduled off-days for the veteran in the early portion of his return.

"Yes, we will. Definitely," Francona said. "[Head athletic trainer James Quinlan] sent out kind of a, not a schedule, but just some ideas. Common sense, I think, kind of rules the day there."

Brantley hit .299 with nine home runs, 20 doubles, 52 RBIs and an .801 OPS last year, but the bulk of that production came in the first half of the season, when he was named an American League All-Star by his peers. Brantley -- limited to 11 games in 2016 due to right shoulder and biceps woes -- first hurt the ankle on May 7 last year against the Royals. Brantley aggravated the injury on Aug. 8 in a game against the Rockies and was sidelined until Sept. 29.

While Brantley finished his rehab schedule, the Indians headed north this season with Tyler Naquin serving as the primary left fielder. Outfielders Rajai Davis, Brandon Guyer, Bradley Zimmer and Lonnie Chisenhall also earned spots on the Opening Day roster.

Francona laughed when asked if Brantley will need to take batting practice in the snow to prepare for the upcoming 10-game homestand in Cleveland.

"He might have to," Francona quipped. "We're about to go through it here at home. We've all seen it. It doesn't look real inviting."

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