CLEVELAND -- The easy decision for Indians manager Terry Francona would have been to tell Michael Brantley to grab a bat on Friday night. Cleveland was trailing by one run in the ninth inning, and Brantley has the ability to change a game with one swing.
But Francona did not call upon Brantley as a pinch-hitter, and the Indians were dealt a 7-6 defeat at the hands of the Tigers. Due to Brantley's comeback from a complicated injury, Francona did not give in to temptation. The manager made the decision before the game even began that the left fielder would not be available off the bench on what was a scheduled day off.
"We talk about it before the game," Francona said on Saturday afternoon. "You've probably heard me say it a lot of times: You try to manage using common sense, and it's hard to have common sense in the midst of the game where you're in the eighth or the ninth. That's why we always talk about it before the game. And last night, we were going to stay away."
Brantley was limited to only 11 games last season by an arm issue that required right shoulder surgery (November 2015) and right biceps surgery (August '16). This spring, the left fielder worked his way back onto the field, hit every benchmark in his rehab program and earned a spot on the Opening Day roster. Throughout the season's first month, though, Francona has looked for days to give Brantley rest.
In working with Brantley and Cleveland's medical staff, Francona kept the left fielder out of the lineup for Friday's game against Detroit. Brantley was also given scheduled days off on Sunday in Arizona and on April 4 in Texas. Francona said he will consult Brantley and the medical team in deciding whether the outfielder is available off the bench.
"He's feeling real good," Francona said. "I just want to make sure he feels real good the whole time. And his communication has been outstanding. Michael would run through the wall if you'd ask him to, or he'd try to. We're trying to be in this together and make it work."
Brantley said he has appreciated the thought and care that Francona has put into the situation.
"I'm always lobbying to play," Brantley said. "If I'm healthy enough to play, I want to be out there with my teammates. At the same time, if I'm in the lineup, I'll play. When I'm not, if I'm down, I've got to listen to the trainers, the manager and the doctors and I do what they say. Hopefully, it won't last forever. That's the whole goal. As of right now, I'm listening to what they're having to say. We'll get through it. We'll get past it."