Cleveland Indians: Rushing Michael Brantley back vs. waiting too long

Cleveland Indians outfielder Michael Brantley has reportedly been progressing, but it is hard to tell when is the proper time to bring him back full-time.

The Cleveland Indians aren’t dealing with too many problems as the regular season approaches, causing fans to focus on just a few storylines.

Perhaps the most notable of the bunch revolves around Michael Brantley and his mysterious health situation. He is playing in minor league games and seemingly doing everything a baseball player needs to do, but is still being held out of major league games.

Jordan Bastian of Indians.com published an article over the weekend that said Brantley could appear in a Cactus League game this week. It featured the following quote from Terry Francona:

“If he doesn’t [return by Opening Day], I don’t think it’s going to be a whole lot after,” Francona said earlier this week.

I’ve heard that one before.

Angst aside, this is what was expected with Brantley. There is absolutely no need to rush him back just so he can play in April. The team has enough talent to keep things steady while one player is out, especially when it was expected he could miss some time.

The conversation then turns to what to do with Brantley if he plays in Cactus League games, perhaps every other day, and appears to be healthy. Does the team continue to ease him back in for precautionary reasons?

That is the part I find most intriguing because there comes a point where waiting any longer won’t change anything.

If his ankle feels fine and all the proper tests show he is good to go, holding him out of action makes less and less sense as time goes on.

So if Brantley does return to Cactus League play this week and is free of any pain in his ankle, he should be set to open the season with the team next week in Seattle. Putting him on the disabled list for more recovery may do more to throw him off than anything else. He will also still be training for a return, putting the same amount of stress on his ankle as he would if he were playing in actual games.