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Inbox: What's the next step for Brantley?

Beat reporter Jordan Bastian answers questions from Indians fans
MLB.com @MLBastian

What's the latest on the rehab process for Michael Brantley? Along those lines, have there been any thoughts about getting Brantley more looks at DH this year?
-- Jake S.

Brantley remains back in Arizona, where he is playing in Minor League spring games and continuing to build up his endurance. On Wednesday, he was scheduled to play seven innings for Triple-A Columbus, but he felt good enough to go the full nine. At the plate, Brantley had two hits, including a home run.

What's the latest on the rehab process for Michael Brantley? Along those lines, have there been any thoughts about getting Brantley more looks at DH this year?
-- Jake S.

Brantley remains back in Arizona, where he is playing in Minor League spring games and continuing to build up his endurance. On Wednesday, he was scheduled to play seven innings for Triple-A Columbus, but he felt good enough to go the full nine. At the plate, Brantley had two hits, including a home run.

What the Indians are currently working through is how to handle Brantley's rehab over the next several days. Minor League camp is ending this weekend, Double-A Akron's season does not begin until Thursday and Columbus' regular season starts on Friday. So Cleveland will need to devise a plan to keep Brantley's rehab going in the lull before he can officially do a rehab assignment.

Indians manager Terry Francona said recently that one option might be for a handful of pitchers to stay back in Arizona to give Brantley some live hitting practice. Hitting, however, is not the team's primary concern with Brantley right now in his comeback from right ankle surgery. Cleveland's training and medical staff is trying to ensure that he is ready to handle the time on his feet over the span of several days in a row.

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During Spring Training this year, Brantley only received 10 Cactus League at-bats and did not play a full game. Last spring, when he was coming back from a right shoulder problem, the left fielder collected 26 at-bats and convinced the team to bring him north on Opening Day. So strictly in terms of plate appearances, Brantley seems close to being ready.

As for using Brantley as a designated hitter, I don't see that being part of the plan, other than maybe on occasion. Yonder Alonso and Edwin Encarnacion will divvy up the playing time between first base and DH, for the most part. Let's say Francona wants to give Alonso a break against a tough lefty or decides Encarnacion could use a day off, then I could see Brantley possibly getting time at DH to get him off his feet here and there.

Tweet from @evanvkelly: What���s keeping Yandy Diaz off the big league roster this year? #indiansinbox

Right now, it's the composition of Cleveland's roster that's keeping Yandy Diaz out of the Major League mix. Once the Indians decided to revert back to their usual infield alignment -- Jason Kipnis at second and Jose Ramirez at third -- Diaz was blocked at the hot corner. Sure, he could have filled a bench job, but it would have been a very limited role and the team prefers to have him playing regularly out of the chute.

The other part of the equation was the Indians' desire to keep Diaz focused on one position. He bounced between third and the outfield last year, and they felt it hurt his development. He is concentrating on third base now, so it comes down to opportunity. The Indians will let the season play out some, monitor how certain players are performing and see if any health setbacks arise, and then there will come a point to decide if Diaz is the next man up.

Tweet from @dMoss24: What is the plan for Gio once he comes off the DL? Did his strong spring training solidify him as the utility man?... will Merritt be moved to the pen when healthy? #IndiansInbox

I know the "we'll have to wait and see" answer is never fun, but ... we'll have to wait and see. Giovanny Urshela (right hamstring) should be ready for game activity in the near future. The plan for Ryan Merritt is not as clear right now. Placing both players on the disabled list at least afforded the Indians the ability to delay potentially exposing them to waivers, given that Urshela and Merritt are each out of Minor League options.

Tweet from @itschorr623: Biggest reason(s) that the @Indians will NOT win it all this year? -Ian, Bismarck, ND #IndiansInbox

What an optimistic way to frame that question! Actually, if you had asked, "What are the reasons the Indians can win it all?" I think the answer would be fairly similar. The path to the World Series will hinge on strong pitching, led by the rotation, and a relatively clean bill of health throughout the summer. So on the flip side, what could potential derail Cleveland this season is questionable depth behind the Major League roster. If there are a few setbacks in the rotation or bullpen, that could present some problems. The top tier of the farm system doesn't look as stocked as it has been in recent years.

Tweet from @Phil_Gasser: What are the odds Lonnie is on the team at the end of year? I have to plan on if I need to change my dogs name. #IndiansInbox

Lonnie Chisenhall is one of a handful of players who will be eligible for free agency next offseason. That is often a status that lends itself to trade rumors, but that's not always the case for a contending team. Cleveland will likely be looking to add in the July and August trade periods, not to subtract. If Chisenhall or others become trade candidates at midseason, that probably means something went terribly wrong for the club in the first three-plus months. Now, if you're asking if Chisenhall will be in an Indians uniform for 2019, well, that's a different story. There is a strong chance this is his final season with the Tribe, but don't go changing your dog's name just yet.

In closing ...

Tweet from @RobOstrom: I���m confused. How does Kluber���s beard have grey hair...seeing as how he���s a robot? @TJZuppe @MLBastian @castrovince @KenCarman

Because, obviously, Corey Kluber not simply a robot. Klubot is a cybernetic organism.

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