Not many days pass by in Goodyear, AZ without the latest news concerning Michael Brantley’s rehabilitation.
The 29-year-old inched one-step closer to his highly anticipated return by advancing to the batting practice stage of his hitting progression from the Cleveland Indians’ spring training complex on Friday.
Other headlines pertaining to the 2016 American League champions involve the starting lineup for tomorrow’s Cactus League opener and Edwin Encarnacion’s Tribe debut.
- Another encouraging practice has Brantley trending toward MLB action sooner rather than later. For the first time this off-season, Brantley took full contact swings in front of an optimistic coaching staff before attending to his media day duties.
“I’m stronger than I was last year. A lot of things are looking positive,” Brantley said to reporters. “Stick to the plan. Don’t try to do too much too early and it’ll all come together at the end.”
Brantley was not the only one satisfied with the promising hitting session.
“If you didn’t know he was rehabbing, you’d think he was just getting ready for the day,” said hitting coach Ty Van Burkleo. “Dr. Smooth is back.”
- Less than 24 hours separates the Indians from their first organized competition against the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday. Featured in the Game 1 batting order is the Tribe debut of Encarnacion. The largest free agent acquisition in the history of the organization will bat cleanup after a lethal top of the order triad consisting of Carlos Santana, Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor.
"I want to feel like part of the family," Encarnacion said at Tribe Fest this past January. "They have great, young talented players here.”
Approximately one month later and the 34-year-old slugger finds himself amidst a supportive clubhouse and his 2013 World Baseball Classic teammate in Carlos Santana.
“Everybody is together,” said Encarnacion. “The American guys, Latin guys, it’s all one. That’s a big difference from other teams.”
- Francona scripted his Saturday afternoon lineup in the following manner…
Carlos Santana DH
Jose Ramirez 3B
Francisco Lindor SS
Edwin Encarnacion 1B
Yan Gomes C
Bradley Zimmer RF
Daniel Robertson LF
Greg Allen CF
Michael Martinez 2B
Ryan Merritt SP
John Alfes has covered the Indians for IBI since August of 2016. Follow him on Twitter @JohnAlfes for breaking news and in-depth coverage all season long.