For the first time in a long time, Michael Brantley is back on a baseball field doing what he does best: swinging a bat.
As a 29-year-old with approximately six seasons (6.131) of MLB service time, but only 11 games played this past year, the clock is ticking and anxiously awaiting for Brantley to log consistent action in the outfield. Since September of 2015, Brantley has been battling a right shoulder issue that needed a surgical procedure this past August.
While the Cleveland Indians are reportedly optimistic Brantley will be ready for opening day, his gradual improvement and the conservative approach applied to his hitting progression this spring make it difficult to gauge a target date for his return.
"(My) shoulder's heading in the right direction. It's a process, but I look forward to taking the right steps to getting back on the field with my teammates," said Brantley. "There's no set date. Each week, hopefully there's a little more I get to kind of add on to what I did last week and it's all about how I feel. As long as I'm rebounding well and feeling well when I wake up in the morning, I'm going to keep pushing myself."
From the perspective of coaches, players and fans at Monday's practice, Brantley appears to be trending in the right direction after taking on-field batting practice at the Cleveland Indians' spring training complex in Goodyear, AZ.
"Spring's coming great," Brantley said. "When you know you're not getting in the game, you're not playing, the most you can do is just pay attention to the pitcher tendencies or pay attention to what the hitters are doing at the plate and see if you can help them in any way. We have some young guys on this team that are open ears, that are trying to get better which is awesome."
If Brantley can do more than act as a veteran presence to the younger talents on the team by playing a full season, then another postseason run may come full circle in 2017.
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.