Michael Brantley's 2016 season should serve as a cautionary tale for injury optimists. The initial hope for Brantley, who was coming off shoulder surgery, was that he might be ready following a brief, backdated DL stint. Unfortunately, his timetable was pushed back to late April, and Brantley only played in 11 games upon his return before he landed right back on the shelf. From there, reports of incremental progress would trickle in, leading many owners to hold tight. However, he experienced several more setbacks and never ended up returning to action. Brantley underwent another shoulder procedure in August, with his rehab projected at four months. There was some fear that his recovery could actually push well into 2017, but the Indians say he should be good to go for spring training. Brantley began taking dry swings right around the end of the calendar year.
Brantley is out of the lineup Sunday against the White Sox. Brantley has started seven of the last eight games, and with the White Sox bringing left-hander Derek Holland to the hill Sunday, manager Terry Francona decided it was an opportune time to give the veteran outfielder a day off. Brandon Guyer will fill in for Brantley in left field and bat third in the order.
Brantley went 2-for-5 with a a two-run home run and two runs during Saturday's win over the White Sox. After a lost 2016 campaign, Brantley is proving the shoulder injury is a thing of the past with a .310/.385/.517 slash line, nine runs, three home runs, 11 RBI and three stolen bases. His cross-category contributions make him a valuable asset and hitting in the heart of a potent lineup helps his fantasy floor.
Brantley went 1-for-4 with a solo home run and two RBI in Monday's 3-1 win over the Twins. It was Brantley's second home run of the season, and the outfielder is now slashing .268/.348/.463 with two steals, eight RBI and four runs in 46 plate appearances. The Tribe is keeping him rested by sitting him against select left-handed pitchers after he played in just 11 games in 2016 due to a shoulder injury. The good news is that the 29-year-old looks fully healthy and should provide solid numbers across the board for fantasy owners who took the plunge on him. After all, he's just three years removed from a .327-20-97 season.
Brantley will be used judiciously throughout April and possible longer, Paul Hoynes of Cleveland.com reports. Brantley, who played just 11 games last season due to shoulder problems, is being carefully deployed by manager Terry Francona in the early portion of 2017 in hopes of conserving the outfielder for later in the season. The Indians have been resting Brantley against selected lefties since the start of the year, and Francona says the practice will continue at least through April. Through 33 at-bats, the 29-year-old is slashing .242/.324/.394 with three extra-base hits and 10 strikeouts.
Brantley is not in the lineup Friday against the Tigers. Brantley has been a staple in the three-hole this season, but with left-hander Daniel Norris taking the mound for Detroit, manager Terry Francona decided it was a good time for the outfielder's second night off of the season. Brandon Guyer will take over in left field and bat third in his stead.