With much of the roster set in stone, Michael Brantley is the only remaining question mark. Every single baseball-related activity he does is reported and analyzed, but spring training will give fans an accurate glimpse of his progress.
Brantley should be given the opportunity to face live pitching, although that should not happen until the trainers are positive that he is fully healthy. This responsibility also falls upon Brantley, who cannot say he is healthy when there may be any sort of pain. Failing to do this leads to a situation like last season, when he only lasted 11 games.
If Brantley is deemed healthy, Francona will have the tough task of determining the proper amount of playing time. If he wants Brantley to be a regular starter in the regular season, not enough action in spring training could lead to a slow start for a player who missed nearly all of last season.
A likely outcome right now could be that Brantley sees some time in spring training, but doesn’t open the regular season with the Indians. He could stay in Arizona and complete some more training until he is ready for a full return.
This all depends on the true nature of his health, which is unknown to fans. But the return of Tribe baseball means we will finally (hopefully) see a healthy Michael Brantley playing once again.
His return slots him in the left field position along with Brandon Guyer, and should help avoid a situation similar to what happened last season, when the outfield spots weren’t solidified until the end of the season. It worked out well in the end, but it sure would be nice to let the same players hold down the spots all year.