The Cleveland Indians are continuing to be patient with Michael Brantley, which is the best way to avoid what happened in 2016.
The Cleveland Indians had a great season in 2016, but the same cannot be said for Michael Brantley.
He did not play in a game until the end of April, and only lasted 11 games before being ruled out for the rest of the season.
He was clearly brought back too early, although he may partially be to blame for that if he claimed he was healthy. Regardless, both Brantley and the team must be cautious in 2017. That appears to be the case, as Brantley is still only hitting off a tee.
“We’re trying like crazy to not go too fast,” said Francona. “We don’t want to put him a position that’s unrealistic. It’s a little bit hard because the only time he felt (pain in his shoulder) is when we put him in a game.
“I think we need to reserve some enthusiasm … because we want him back desperately. But just in fairness to him. We want to allow him to come back on his own program and on the trainers’ timeline. So he has a chance not just to come back, but to stay back.”
Brantley may be getting frustrated with the progress if he feels he is healthy, but this is the best move for both sides. The team is in better shape if Brantley comes back in the summer and is available for the postseason rather than him being rushed back and dealing with complications all season.
The outfield depth was apparent last season, so any time away for Brantley shouldn’t have too much of a negative effect on the team.
There are also players in the farm system who can get some MLB experience if Brantley isn’t ready to start the season, so the front office likely isn’t too worried.
Fans will be skeptical about Brantley’s true health until he proves he can be a consistent force in the lineup, but the only way for that to happen is for the team to be extra careful. The fact that is already happening is a positive sign moving forward.