From baby steps to massive strides, Michael Brantley has trusted the process and done everything but play in an organized game under the scorching Arizona sun in 2017.
Now that Brantley has reached the culminating stages of his hitting progression, the Cleveland Indians training staff believes he is ready for an in-game workload on Wednesday and Friday.
- The development of Brantley this spring has been drastically different from the countless setbacks he experienced in 2016. He has gradually advanced from taking non-contact swings in January, hitting off a tee in late January and early February, doing soft toss in February and recently participating in indoor and on-field batting practice throughout March.
The 29-year-old seems prepared to check off another step on his spring training to-do list in a pair of minor league games this week.
"We're not going to play him nine (innings) off the bat," said Francona. "There still has to be a progression and that's what we'll do. I think the trainers felt like a minor league game is probably the next best step."
Brantley is slated to defend left field tomorrow with the end goal of being primed to play opening day against the Texas Rangers on Apr. 3.
- Three poor starts this spring from Carlos Carrasco have concerned Francona and pitching coach Mickey Callaway. As a result, the number two starter was examined on Tuesday morning and found swelling in his right elbow with no structural damage.
"Everything's okay," Francona said to reporters. "He's got a little swelling in [his right elbow], but nothing structurally or anything like that. So there's a pretty good chance we're going to bump him back a start. We're just trying to work through some stuff."
Through four Cactus League outings, Carrasco has allowed 12 earned runs on 14 hits in six innings pitched for a 15.75 ERA and 2.25 WHIP. The 29-year-old is expecting his fifth child by the end of the month and should be ready to go come April.
"His wife's expecting in about 10 days, maybe a week," said Francona. "We're trying to figure out between bumping him back a little bit and then him leaving, so we're still working through that."
- In addition to Cody Anderson (strained UCL), Dr. Keith Meister will also examine Jason Kipnis' right shoulder strain and provide the club with a second opinion later this week.
"I think what they're going to do is, one, get another opinion by a respected doctor," Francona said. "And then, put their heads together - all of them - and then figure out what's the best course of action."
Kipnis has been shut down for two weeks while Anderson is out indefinitely.
- Now that Italy and Colombia have been eliminated from the World Baseball Classic, Chris Colabello and Giovanny Urshela will return to camp at their corner infield positions.
"Colabello is coming back today," Francona said. "We got Urshela back and we'll put him in at third tomorrow. So we're starting to get some guys back which will help."
Richie Shaffer filled in at the first base position for Tuesday's contest vs. San Francisco with 152.1 MLB innings already under his belt between the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
"He took some ground balls yesterday," said Francona. "He can do it."