Sunday, April 3, 2016

Brantley To Open Indians' 2016 Season On 15-Day DL

he tried to avoid it, but unfortunately it could not be avoided. today, on April 3, the Cleveland Indians announced that Michael Brantley was placed on the 15-day DL as he continues to recover from offseason right shoulder surgery. we've all known this was going to happen for some time, but the roster transaction did not become official until now. the good news about his DL stint is it's retroactive to March 25. that means, if Michael was ready, he could be activated as early as April 9 and would only miss the first week--just 4 games--of April, as opposed to missing the first two weeks or more of the season. while that once seemed like a real possibility, it now doesn't appear as though he will be back that fast.

note: i am presently in the middle of writing up Michael's daily health updates and the results of his spring/rehab games, but this is something that i felt needed to be posted about separately.

originally expected to miss April and part of May after his shoulder surgery on November 9, Michael attacked his rehab and did everything he could to be back on the field as soon as possible. he spent most of his offseason rehabbing in Cleveland, Ohio, then went out to Goodyear on February 1 to carry on with his rehab there. he started swinging a bat well before the initial projection date of March 9, beginning with hitting off a tee, then some soft toss, then progressing to indoor batting practice in the cage, and lastly graduating to
on the field batting practice.*

he played one intrasquad game with minor league teams on a back field on March 17, and made his Cactus League debut on March 19, going 1-for-3 with a 2-run home run. at this point it truly seemed like Michael was going to achieve his goal of being ready for Opening Day. it became clear that the Indians wanted to take an every other day approach when he played his next game on March 21.

when the lineup for the March 23 game came out and Michael's name was not in it, i assumed there was some kind of trouble. turns out, his shoulder was not bouncing back as they had hoped, so he needed a few more days off to rest. that basically solidified him opening up the year on the DL in my eyes because with the regular season starting in just a little under two weeks and Michael still not even being able to play games every other day, there was no way his shoulder was ready to endure the daily grind yet. then Terry Francona pretty much confirmed the news on March 26 when he said Michael would not be playing in any Cactus League games in the upcoming week of spring (which also happened to be the last week of spring training).

Michael just began hitting in the batting cages again yesterday, April 2, and there is no current plan for when he will begin his rehab games. "no, that's too far ahead," Michael said. "i don't know that right now. we're gonna take some back-to-back BPs, and get back into the flow of things again before we find out the game plan for rehab games."

"it's frustrating, because i won't be with my teammates, absolutely," Michael previously admitted. "any game that they're playing and i'm not, i'm going to be even more eager to get back there. ...i don't want to come back where i'm limited, or i can only play a couple games and need a day off, or anything like that. i want to come back and be ready to go."

this is the very first time in his career that Michael has ever opened a season on the DL and missed an Opening Day with the Tribe since he began breaking camp with the team in 2010. not just that, but he's only been on the DL one other time in his career. he played with wrist pain after the All Star break in 2011 for a good month and a half before being put on the disabled list on August 26. that season officially came to an end for him when he had surgery to remove a broken hamate bone on August 31.

but that's not the only baseball-related surgery Michael underwent prior to his shoulder operation. if you don't remember, he also had surgery for a sports hernia on October 11, 2012, right after that season concluded. when that news was released, Tribe fans additionally learned that Michael was playing with abdominal pain for the entire second half of the season. as you can see, Michael's willingness to play at less than 100% for as long as he can tolerate is a mindset that he's had for years.

unlike Michael's hernia surgery, his hamate surgery had a real effect on his offseason in terms of how he typically prepares for an upcoming season. his hitting schedule had to be altered, as he was limited in how much hitting he could do at first. be that as it may, by spring training, he was doing everything that all the other players were. so that set somewhat of a precedent for how he would go about rehabbing this winter. conversely, his 2012 surgery did not limit his offseason hitting routine, and neither procedure caused him to be so far behind that a stint on the DL became necessary. 

the significance of all this is that now Michael has plenty of experience recovering from surgery and knowing when his body is truly back to normal. despite his eagerness to rejoin his teammates, he's a smart guy and we can trust his judgment. when he feels he's ready to be activated, he really will be.

while i am saddened that Michael is going to miss Opening Day with the Tribe and some additional time after that, i am not disappointed. this was supposed to be the game plan all along, for him to miss a bit of time. the only reason we even began to think maybe he would open with the team was because he did so well with his rehab and ended up ahead of the original timetable. i can't be upset with the DL stint because i know this is the best thing for him.

remember, he missed out on his entire offseason regimen as well as a ton of spring training games. normally, baseball players start swinging a bat again in December and continue to all through the offseason, and then more in spring training. so considering Michael only just started swinging a bat in early March, i believe he still has some rust to shake off. he definitely needs more reps to get himself prepared for the intensity of a full baseball season, regardless of when he comes back and how much he ends up playing this year. i'd rather he miss two weeks in April and then come back and be ready to go for the whole rest of the season, rather than come back too soon and need to be handled with care or re-injure that shoulder.

of course i have worries that Michael won't immediately be at his highest level of play when he finally does return to major league games. he may not be all that productive and could have some uncharacteristically bad showings early on. but this is the hand he was dealt, and i do believe he's up for the challenge and will get through it.

whenever Michael is activated from the disabled list, i will then post the blog recapping all his spring rehab games. so keep an eye out for that; i might be posting it sooner than you think! and make sure you're following me on twitter @clevelandgirl23 for daily updates about his ongoing rehab and game performances!

*if you want lots more information about his offseason rehab progressions prior to playing in games, check out these blogs:
Brantley Has Right Shoulder Surgery (November 2015) 
Brantley News From the Winter Meetings (early December 2015)
Brantley Health Updates (late December 2015)
Brantley Shoulder Rehab Progression (January 2016)
Brantley Hitting Program News (February 2016)
Brantley Hitting Advancements (March 2016)

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