let me begin with a brief recap to explain how he got here. Michael had surgery on November 9, 2015 to repair a slight labral tear in his right shoulder. he suffered this shoulder impairment on September 22 in the game against the Minnesota Twins, and that eventually led to an early 2015 shut down. Michael attempted to resolve the issue without going under the knife, but he soon realized that that could not be avoided. he spent most of his offseason in Cleveland before flying out to Arizona on February 1 to carry on with his rehab there.
Michael tried his best to be ready in time for Indians Opening Day, because that was his goal all along, and he came really close to achieving that feat. he worked very hard in his rehab, so hard that he found himself weeks ahead of his initially projected post-surgery workout schedule. while he was not able to play in spring training games when the Indians first started on March 1, he was
given permission to play in games (with the minor leaguers) a short time later on March 17.
the day after his minor league game appearance, Michael got the go-ahead to play with the Indians and finally made his 2016 Cactus League debut on March 19. unfortunately, after his second Cactus League game on March 21, some unexpected shoulder soreness cropped up and that put a temporary pin in his spring rehab game plan. whether you want to consider it a setback or not, the Indians knew they needed to be smart with their prized left fielder going forward and ultimately decided he would not play in anymore Cactus League games after that.
on the day before Indians Opening Day, April 3, Michael was placed on the 15-day DL as he continued to recover. the move was retroactive to March 25 (the earliest probable backdate day) since Michael had not played in any games with the Indians past that point. what that meant was, if possible, Michael would be able to come off the DL as early as April 9, well ahead of a full 15 days into the regular season. sadly, that one time realistic target became unattainable as the first week of the season came and went and Michael still had not gotten back into playing rehab games.
so obviously, by the time Michael received clearance from the medical staff to begin playing in games again, the Indians were already in the midst of their 2016 season. therefore, Michael had to resume his rehabilitation during the homestands of two different minor league affiliates, those being the Triple A Columbus Clippers and Double A Akron RubberDucks.
his minor league rehab assignment commenced on April 12 and concluded on April 23, spanning seven total games over 12 days. in that time, he made three appearances with the Clippers and four with the RubberDucks. now, here we are on April 25, anxiously awaiting Michael's season debut with the Tribe, which i bet occurs at some point in the game tonight! and no, the irony that Michael will play his first game coming back from injury against the same team and in the same ballpark where the shoulder incident originated has not been lost on me.
feel free to read any or all of the following blogs containing every detail of Michael's offseason rehab:
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)
Brantley To Open Indians' 2016 Season On 15-Day DL (April 3, 2016)
this is the first part of Michael's rehab information and it includes his continued daily health updates from March 17 - April 25. i've listed all the news that coincided with Michael's spring rehab games, his unexpected break from games, and his final group of minor league rehab games that took place while the Indians were already in-season. besides that, all of his rehab game details are interspersed within the updates as well. i know this is very long, so just read what you like. a detailed analysis of Michael's rehab number break downs, rehab game lines, and my predictions for his 2016 season can be found in the second part, which is linked at the end of this blog.
Continued Daily Rehab Updates (from Cactus League and Minor League Assignment)
March 17: Michael's first game action came in a minor league intrasquad game between Triple A and Double A players. this game, listed as a "camp day" on the minor league spring training schedule, was played on Field 3 on the minor league side of the Indians complex. Michael made two trips to the plate and saw a total of 11 pitches, but did not get a hit. he also played a few innings in left field and recorded an outfield assist. Paul Hoynes wrote in his evening article on cleveland.com that Michael's wife and kids were there watching him.
Jordan Bastian and Andre Knott both provided video of Michael's first AB (groundout to short on a 1-2 count). in Bastian's postgame article on indians.com, he elaborated on Michael's at bat, writing that he took the first two pitches he saw, fouled off two more, and then grounded out against right-handed pitcher Will Roberts.
|photo courtesy of @Indians on twitter|
Bastian also tweeted that during Michael's appearance in the game, he threw Mike Papi out at 2nd base, who was trying to stretch a single to left field into a double. Bastian wrote in his article that this assist came in Michael's first inning in the field.
Bastian later took video of Michael on deck before his second AB (groundout to short). he saw six pitches from right-hander Dace Kime, fouling off two before grounding out again, as per Bastian's article.
after his ABs, Bastian tweeted that Michael said he's one more step closer to his goal. Knott tweeted Michael was upbeat and said it's all about how he feels tomorrow.
as expected, Michael met with the media once his day was done. there's a video of him on indians.com and another on cleveland.com. here is a transcription of both:
"it's another stepping stone closer towards my goal. i'm very excited to be out there with the guys, especially some of the young guys, just kinda talking to em, and just being back in a game atmosphere."
Bastian asked him if it felt good to get some playing time back in the outfield and get the defensive play, and Michael answered, "it's important. just getting the reps, getting your legs under you, baseball activity. you can try all you want to kinda prep for it, but just being in a game situation makes it all real."
how did it feel seeing live pitches? "it felt good. i saw the ball good. i got to take some swings up there so i'm excited. it's a good day."
when Hoynsie commented that it looked like Michael didn't agree with one of the strikes, Michael smiled and said, "that doesn't matter, that doesn't matter. as long as i got to take some swings up there and put a couple balls in play, run the bases, i'm happy."
Hoynsie followed that up with a question, asking him what the next step is. Michael replied, "see how i feel tomorrow. i think that's important to see how i rebound, and do it all over again."
Bastian then asked if he feels Opening Day is realistic with under 3 weeks left. "why not? i don't see why i would just cut myself any shorter or give myself any extra time if i don't need it. but i'm gonna be honest with myself and my teammates and my coaching staff and do whatever's best for the team."
Knott inquired if there were a certain number of at bats Michael felt he'd need in order to be ready, and Michael didn't have any number in mind. "me personally, no. it's more just, make sure that i can withstand the full season, i think that's very important, and just understanding my body. i think that's the most important.
"we'll work hard and come to the ballpark with a positive attitude and positive mindset, understanding how many days i have left and what i need to do to get ready. i've been blessed to play in this game for a little while now, so i understand what it takes to get ready, and i'm gonna do my best to be ready."
Hoynsie's article contained this from Michael as well: "i'm taking my normal swing that i'll take into the game on April 4 and take it into September hopefully. i'm taking good quality swings, as many as i can."
Bastian's postgame article also mentioned that one of the final tests for Michael will be a diving play. "it's going to happen eventually, and i'm not going to hold back. i'm going to dive. i'm not worried about it. it's part of the game. i'm not going to pull up short, and i'm not going to not dive. it's not in my vocabulary not to do it, and it's not in my mindset not to do it."
the plan for Friday [March 18] is Michael and the Indians' staff will monitor how his body bounces back, and he will likely take at least one day off from game activity. there is still no timetable for his debut in Cactus League games with the Indians.
March 18: Bastian tweeted some surprising news that Francona said Michael will make his Cactus League debut on Saturday night [March 19] and that Tito's growing more optimistic about Opening Day being possible for Michael.
Bastian's indians.com article revealed that Michael rebounded well health-wise this morning, and Hoynsie's article on cleveland.com quoted Francona as saying, "there's no repercussion. i don't think there would have been or they wouldn't have allowed him to play in the game.
"i'm optimistic, just because of how he's feeling and how he's doing. again, i'm not ready to [say he will be on the Opening Day roster]. i don't think it's fair to him. i'm just really excited about where he's at in his progression. other than that, i'll just let it play itself out."
"i couldn't care less if he gets a hit on Field whatever it is," Tito affirmed. "just the fact that he's in the game, i think he was excited. he was playing the game, and he was playing left field like he was excited. that's good. the stuff he's been doing is so taxing that, man, he kind of has to be healthy. he's getting after it."
how many at bats is Michael going to need to be ready for OD? "i don't think there is a number," declared the skipper. "it's different for everybody. a guy could get a handful of at bats and do well. and he has probably the least maintenance to his swing of anyone in camp. but it is nice to play your first handful of games and your legs get heavy and your hands get sore. now he's worked really hard so that doesn't happen. he's really been getting after it on the agility field.
"so i'm not that worried about his number of at bats. if he's healthy, and he's able to do what he can do, he's a very good player. even to the point where, if we had to know going [into the regular season] that maybe he wasn't quite ready to play a day game after a night game, having Michael out three out of four, as opposed to not having him, we'll take." (these quotes from Tito came from both Bastian's and Hoynsie's articles.)
moreover, during the day's Tribe game, Indians assistant GM Derek Falvey joined Tom Hamilton in the WTAM 1100 booth. regarding Michael, Hammy asked does he need X number of at bats? "i don't think there's a set number," Falvey responded. "it's a matter of being comfortable and getting his timing right. but also getting that repetition in the outfield so he can feel like he can bounce back each and every day."
March 19: Michael's debut Cactus League game in Goodyear, AZ versus the Chicago Cubs just happened to be sold out. maybe it was because it was the Indians' first spring night game, 7 pm MST/10 pm EST, or maybe it was because of the Cubs, who are usually a big draw so said Hoynsie. during the broadcast, Hammy also said there were fireworks after the game, which is always a fan favorite as well.
here's Michael on deck before his first AB:
|photo courtesy of @cshillz on twitter|
in Michael's first AB in the bottom of the 1st inning, he swung at right-handed pitcher Pierce Johnson's first pitch and made hard, loud contact. sadly, the ball was hit about 390 feet to dead center field (per Terry Pluto), about 15 feet shy of the wall (per Bastian), and caught. Knott tweeted that Michael received a standing ovation as he went back to the dugout. he left Jason Kipnis on base, who'd reached 1st base on a fielding error.
the Cubs had the bases loaded and 1 out when Kris Bryant came to bat in the top of the 3rd inning against Indians ace, Corey Kluber. Bryant hit a single to left field, scoring Pierce Johnson (yes, the pitcher bat in the game) to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead. but when Ben Zobrist also tried scoring from 2nd base, Michael threw the ball on one-hop to Indians catcher, Yan Gomes, who applied the tag to get Zobrist out at home plate. and that exciting play gave Michael his first official Cactus League outfield assist!
leading off the bottom of the 4th inning, Michael grounded out to 3rd base against Johnson again in his second AB after a 2-2 count. the sequence went strike looking, strike tipped, ball, ball, and groundout.
in Michael's third and final AB of the night in the bottom of the 5th inning, he came to bat against righty Justin Grimm with 2 outs, Kipnis at 1st base, and the Indians leading, 2-1. after a 2-0 count, Michael hit a long drive, at least 400 feet to deep right field, for a 2-run home run. way to cap your debut!
here's Michael rounding the bases:
|photo courtesy of Dan Mendlik via TribeVibe|
i fully expected him to be rusty and need some time to get back to being his normal self. then he goes and hits a home run before exiting. (his first AB was almost a home run, too.)
Pluto was the first to report/tweet that after his debut, Michael had a big smile on his face and said he felt great.
Bastian's game wrap up article on indians.com shared that Michael was very excited and had been ready for this night game since the early morning. "i woke up at the normal time, even though we had a late [game] time, at 5:45 this morning. i was excited and ready to go. it was a good day."
what did Kluber think of Michael's assist? "he's one of the better left fielders in baseball. that was a big play in that inning right there. bases loaded, nobody out, all of a sudden you can kind of sneak one out right there with him making a great throw and getting the guy at the plate. that kind of changes the dynamic of the inning, and luckily enough, we were able to hold them to just one run."
Francona was pleased as well. "good for him. besides the fact that he took some good swings, you saw the way that everybody reacted to him. [it was] good. i think it's pretty obvious that he's been working pretty hard."
a postgame video on indians.com showed Michael trying to contain his smile, only to just let it show later, as he spoke about his performance. "it felt good. it felt good to be out there in front of the crowd and with my teammates. second game of the spring so it was exciting."
Bastian remarked to Michael that his performance (home run and outfield assist) seemed like the way you would draw up his debut. "is it?" Michael questioned in response. "i mean, i just like getting out there and getting the reps. i think that's the most important part. just being out there with my teammates and having fun. having fun."
Pluto wrote a nice piece about Michael's debut on cleveland.com. he asked Michael why he swung at the first pitch in his first game back. "i got a good fastball over the plate and i put a good swing on it. i'm not going to just work the count, i'm going to (approach) it like i would in the season."
did he know he hit a homer in his final at bat? "i never think anything i hit is going out."
how did throwing out the runner at the plate feel? "you can do the outfield defensive drills every day, but there is nothing like game speed. you can practice all you want, but when the adrenaline is flowing, there is nothing like it."
another postgame article by Bastian on indians.com had more in regard to whether Michael will be ready for Opening Day with the Tribe. "they told me i was going to be ready when i told them i was ready. i did everything i could this offseason. i didn't take a day off. i did everything the training staff asked me to, the doctors asked me to. i stuck to the program and i feel good. i've had another surgery before. i know what i have to do to get back. that's been one of the most important things, i learned from experience."
"i guess i trust him so much that i haven't really been that concerned," Francona stated. "believe me, i know how important he is. but, i know what he's doing and when he's able to be ready, he's going to be ready. and it won't be a moment later."
once they see how Michael's body feels Sunday [March 20] morning, the Indians will decide on his next game appearance. "i've still got some bumps in the road to get over," Michael recognized. "playing back-to-back games, playing full games, playing multiple games. tonight was just another step."
March 20: Bastian tweeted that Michael felt normal game soreness today and is scheduled to return to the lineup on Monday [March 21].
Bastian also tweeted that Indians hitting coach, Ty Van Burkleo, said the follow-through of Michael's swing is important to monitor. so far, so good. "at the end of last year, he'd get to a certain point and kind of tighten it up and hold it in. he'd kind of alligator-arm that lead arm a little bit. he wouldn't get that full extension. now, he's able to get through the ball and has no problems. his swing looks Michael Brantley-esque again."
Bastian's afternoon indians.com article had more from Van Burkleo. "he's had no pain, which is key. the first pitch he sees, he hits 405 feet. two at bats later, he hits a homer off a 97 mph fastball. you've got to be pretty encouraged with that."
one thing the Indians and medical staff aren't sure of yet is if Michael's going to continue playing in Cactus League games after March 25 or go back to playing with the minor leaguers. "we really haven't discussed that," Francona confessed. "if we get to a point where we need to talk about that, we can. i just think that he's doing so well. we'll just let him continue to do well.
"i'm going to be surprised probably if there are some setbacks. the volume and the intensity, the way he's gone about things [has been impressive]. i think it's almost more of i was hoping that he'd be confident enough to go ahead and let it go [on Saturday], and obviously, he was. i know i've said it, but he's just done an unbelievable job at this. he's just attacked this rehab."
March 21: Michael went hitless in his second Cactus League game, going 0-for-2. he hit a groundout to 2nd base on the 6th pitch of a 2-2 count against Scott Carroll in the bottom of the 1st inning; hit another groundout to 2nd after a 1-0 count against Tommy Kahnle in the bottom of the 4th inning; and drew a 2-out walk with Jose Ramirez at 2nd and Erik Gonzalez at 1st base in the bottom of the 5th inning after a 3-1 count against southpaw Matt Purke, before being lifted for a pinch runner. and i think it's worth noting that the final pitch almost hit him.
March 23: an article on indians.com from William Boor stated that Michael's shoulder didn't rebound the way he or the club would have liked, so he's going to get a few days off from game action. "just wasn't quite bouncing back like he wanted to," Francona declared. Pluto's article on cleveland.com said it's not supposed to be a major concern and his tweet claimed they're just being careful.
since Michael is still so far ahead of his original timetable, Tito's not worried about his status. "i think we're still above and beyond pleased with where he is. because he's so far ahead of schedule, these things do crop up. that's why we're going to give him two days (to rest)."
his progress is the reason Francona didn't want to put any pressure on Michael to be ready for Opening Day. "it's not fair to (put Opening Day expectations on) him."
March 24: Bastian tweeted that Francona said Michael would be out of the lineup today and tomorrow. it's nothing alarming, they're just giving him a couple rest days for his shoulder as noted the previous day.
later on in the evening, Bastian tweeted again with more details from Francona: "with DL retroactive cut-off date being Friday, it's possible Brantley plays in minor league games from here on out."
Zack Meisel's article on cleveland.com once again explained that if Michael begins the year on the DL, as long as he remains out of the rest of the big league spring games, the Indians can back up the start date. then he would be eligible to return toward the end of the first week of the regular season, as early as the April 8-10 series against the Chicago White Sox (per Bastian's indians.com article). on the other hand, if Michael does appear in another Cactus League game after Friday [March 25], that would push back his DL stint (if he does open on the DL).
"it's possible" that Michael will only play in minor league games for the rest of spring training. the Indians plan to talk to Michael in the next few days to decide on a plan for him. "we've talked to Brantley about it," Tito divulged. "we'll keep that in consideration."
minor soreness aside, Francona is still encouraged with Michael's progress. "he wasn't bouncing back quite as well. i'm not really sure we expected him to be pushing it this much, this quick. i just don't know that it was expected that he'd be almost ready to play. he's so far ahead of schedule that it's kind of silly."
March 25: Bastian tweeted Michael was scheduled to have his shoulder checked by the team doctor today and the plan for Michael beyond that is on hold. Meisel's cleveland.com article said Michael's schedule for the day included some work in the batting cages.
another Bastian tweet informed us that Francona said the team is looking at carrying 5 outfielders with Michael not likely to start on time.
the early evening indians.com article from Bastian added that Dr. Mark Schickendantz examined Michael's shoulder in the morning and the Indians should have more information on the plan for him on Saturday [March 26]. "he'll be looked at, and then hopefully he'll go out and start to get back in the swing of things," Francona reported. "we'll go one step at a time."
March 26: Bastian's update of the day was a somber one, when he tweeted that Opening Day looks to be out the window. Francona told the media that Michael had another follow up with the doctor today and would not be playing in MLB games this week.
here's more from Francona via Bastian's article on indians.com and Hoynsie on cleveland.com. "i think it was healthy for him to shoot for [Opening Day]. anytime you have a goal, i think it's good. i hope he's not disappointed. i think maybe he understands probably better than anybody here what he means to this team. but, there's not one ounce of disappointment in me. i'm proud of him, man. he busted his ass and he'll continue to do that. it might be a week later. it might be 10 days. he's going to be just fine. we've just got to do it right. it was easy to do it right, because of our trust with him and his honesty with us."
"he's going to talk to Schick (the Indians head physician) again today and try to plan maybe a little course of action here," Francona offered. "he had a pretty good day in the training room getting loose, a better day than he had yesterday. we'll kind of wait and see what they say moving forward. i don't think you're going to see him playing in a Major League game this week, that's for sure. but, how we go about the next two, three, four days, i think we'll have a better idea, maybe [after the meeting with the doctor] later today."
later Bastian edited his article with some quotes from Michael about the news. "i just had some soreness after i played that last game. i told myself and the medical staff that i was going to be honest, and i wouldn't come back unless i'm 100%. so, i'm just kind of listening to my body and taking it day by day, understanding that it's a different atmosphere in a game-like situation, and i've got to recover faster when i come back from games."
"it's frustrating, because i won't be with my teammates, absolutely," Michael conceded. "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."
March 27: Bastian's article on indians.com contained an excerpt with some news about Michael. Francona declared he's going to take a couple of days off from hitting due to the recent soreness in his shoulder. a tweet from Hoynsie added that Michael will travel with the team. it was also reiterated that Michael will likely open the season on the 15-day DL.
"we're going to let this thing settle down for a couple days, and then start to ramp him back up," Tito notified the media. "he's not going to start the season with us as our starting left fielder. ...so, if that's the case, let's not do something that doesn't make sense. let's give him a chance to be healthy for the whole year."
March 30: we finally got some new Michael news today. Bastian tweeted that Indians President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti confirmed Michael will open on the DL. Francona said Michael will resume his hitting program on Friday [April 1]--a couple of days of cage hitting--and then be re-evaluated. Tito additionally proclaimed that he's doing pretty well. later, Bastian's article on indians.com said Michael will be with the Indians on Opening Day.
"you never heard Tito or i focus on Opening Day," Antonetti acknowledged. "in our minds, we were [originally] thinking mid-May as a reasonable timetable, and that it could even be later than that. Michael is so far ahead of that, that we want to make sure we don't lose sight of that.
"his honesty is really important. the thing that matters most is that we are able to put him in a position to be successful for the majority of the season, even if that means it may not be Opening Day. to Michael's credit, he was really good about how he communicated every step of the way throughout the process."
March 31: here's Michael getting on the plane with the rest of the team as they all prepare to leave AZ for two exhibition games in Texas:
|photo courtesy of @Indians on twitter|
April 1: a short snippet article on indians.com by Dave Sessions disclosed that Michael is expected to take batting practice on Saturday [April 2]. Francona said, "he had a real good day today in his checkup." as for his potential return date, Tito suggested, "we'll know when the season starts. ...Brant's one of the better bats in the league, and we miss that."
April 2: during the final Indians spring game, Jim Rosenhaus corroborated on WTAM 1100 that Michael did hit in the indoor batting cages today. they're going to wait and see how he feels in the next 24 hours and then go from there. the Indians are still hoping he'll be ready sometime in April according to T.R. Sullivan's article on indians.com.
April 3: Michael was officially placed on the 15-day DL, retroactive to March 25. (for more information, read the separate blog i posted all about it here.)
according to Bastian's article on indians.com, Michael went through the workout with the Indians today, but was not scheduled to take batting practice. he is having his shoulder evaluated each day before the medical staff approves increasing the intensity and volume of his rehab. Chris Assenheimer's article on chronicle.northcoastnow.com had more from Michael. "i come in, i get evaluated, i do some strength tests, see how i feel and we go from there. day-by-day basis, every day is getting a little more, kind of putting stuff on my plate and tackling more tasks." he also said he's very close and excited where he's at in a video from cleveland.com on youtube.
right now, there is no current plan for when he will begin his rehab games. "no, that's too far ahead," Michael postulated. "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. i just want to build back that strength that i need to hopefully get through the course of a long season, and be back with my teammates at 100%."
**AT THIS TIME, THE INDIANS 2016 SEASON HAD NOW BEGUN**
April 5: here's Michael with Josh Tomlin watching the Indians Home Opener game versus the Boston Red Sox from the dugout:
|photo courtesy of TribeVibe|
also during the game, Antonetti joined Tom Hamilton on the WTAM 1100 broadcast and said that Michael has been progressing well, hasn't had any soreness, and could be ready in a few weeks.
April 6: Bastian tweeted that Michael will work out with Triple A Columbus while the Indians are in Chicago (April 8-10), but there are no firm plans for a minors rehab assignment yet.
Hoynsie's evening article on cleveland.com included a few quotes from Francona. "i don't want to do anything that he would remotely take as, 'hey, let's go.' i know it's killing him and he's trying. i mostly just say hello to him because i don't want him to feel one bit pressured because we know he's trying hard. when he's good, we're good."
furthermore, during the Tribe game, Hammy mentioned on the radio that Michael is coy about his shoulder, but says he's feeling better. the Indians still think he can be back by mid-April, or maybe the third week of April.
April 7: Bastian reiterated on twitter from Francona that Michael was slated to go to Columbus tomorrow and work out.
Bastian's article on indians.com brought everyone up to speed that, despite the day's rainy conditions, Michael got his daily workout and rehab in at Progressive Field with the team. when he's in Columbus this weekend, he will work out with the Clippers but is not going to play in their games. there is still no timetable for when he will begin a minor league rehab game assignment, or a target date for his activation from the DL. late April or early May remains the possible range for his return.
it was also made known that Michael preferred not to return to Arizona to continue his comeback. considering the rehab work he put in and the progress he is making behind the scenes, the Indians saw no reason to go against Michael's wishes. "he doesn't need [to go back to Arizona]," Francona explained. "he's been so good about getting his work in and things like that. whatever he kind of wants to do, he's doing it for a reason."
April 8: here's Michael working out in Columbus (with Lonnie Chisenhall):
|photo courtesy of @CLBClippers on twitter|
April 9: during the Indians game, Rosey informed WTAM 1100 listeners that Derek Falvey said Michael has been trying to do as much cage work as he can down in Columbus.
April 10: here's Michael running the bases in the morning before the Clippers game:
|photo courtesy of @CLBClippers on twitter|
other than that, this was an off day for Michael re: hitting in the cages according to Knott.
an afternoon article on indians.com from Bastian also provided this from Francona: "he's doing well. he's feeling really good, so that's good. there's nothing to announce [about his game schedule]. we'll let the trainers talk to him and see what the next move is."
April 11: Bastian tweeted that the Indians announced Michael will begin a minor league rehab assignment with Triple A Columbus on Tuesday [April 12].
Bastian's indians.com article indicated that Michael will need a handful of games before being activated from the DL. Hoynsie's article on cleveland.com reminded fans that as a position player, Michael can spend up to 20 days on a rehab assignment. Michael most likely will not do all of his rehab with just the Clippers, however, due to their upcoming travel schedule. if the Indians want Michael to stay close to Cleveland as he continues to make progress, he may play some games with the minor league teams in Double A Akron or Class A Lake County.
April 12: during the Columbus Clippers pregame show, which i had the ability to listen to!!!, they said Michael was scheduled to play about 4 innings and then would get the day off tomorrow.
when the lineup was released for Michael's debut in his first minor league rehab assignment game with the Clippers versus the Louisville Bats (Triple A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds) at Huntington Park, he was batting 2nd and starting in left field. maybe the most important news was he would be sporting a #50 on his Clippers jersey.
here's Michael signing autographs for fans before the game:
|photo courtesy of @H_Grove on twitter|
boy, it's been a LONG time since anyone's seen Michael in a Clippers uniform lol this is like a throwback Thursday from 2010 haha
i was able to not only pull up the GameDay for the 6:35 pm game, but i also listened to the audio broadcast for free online, so i have all the details from Michael's time in the game.
in his first AB in the bottom of the 1st inning against right-handed pitcher, Jon Moscot, he sent a 1-out, line drive double to left field on 2-1 pitch. Grove has the video here. he moved up to 3rd base on a Jesus Aguilar single, and then scored the Clippers' first run of the game on Chisenhall's sacrifice fly to left field. that tied the game at 1.
Michael's next and final AB came in the bottom of the 3rd inning, once again against Moscot. with 2 outs and the game still tied at 1, he popped out to short after a 1-1 count to end the inning. Grove has that video here.
Michael was subbed out defensively before the top of the 5th inning, just like they said. not a bad night for Dr. Smooth.
after the game, Grove tweeted that Michael said his shoulder felt good, as did his double. he also tweeted that Michael's just getting his timing down, getting his swings down and overall just making sure that his shoulder is bouncing back strong.
Grove later provided some information on Michael's game plan going forward and a few thoughts from the man himself in an article on scout.com. "it's a good feeling. it's nice being back out there. it was a solid first step. two at bats, just to make sure we didn't overdo it and see how i respond tomorrow."
the cold weather in Columbus had no effect on Michael's shoulder, likely due to the adrenaline he had from getting back on the field.
next Michael will travel back to Cleveland for further evaluation and strengthening. if that goes well, he will continue to play in games close to Cleveland (read: he will not be traveling with the minor league clubs on their road trips). there is still no timetable for his return to the Tribe. Michael and the Indians are taking his rehab day-by-day. "i don't want to look too far ahead. i want to make sure i just take it one game at a time and see how i respond."
in a postgame interview uploaded on scout.com, Michael verified to the media that he's heading back to Cleveland tonight and is off tomorrow. "just do some rehabilitation and some strengthening exercises." he's going back to Cleveland "just to get my work in back there."
regarding the timing of his swing, Michael confessed, "i'm a little rusty, but at the same time it's just nice being back out there, just trying to get the reps."
lastly, a late night article on indians.com by Andrew Astleford (filling in for Bastian for a few days) included an excerpt about Michael's next rehab appearance. "Brantley will move to Akron on Thursday [April 14]," Francona said. "and Brant will go every other day for probably a week."
April 13: in an early morning article on cleveland.com by Hoynsie, the question of how many ABs will Michael need before returning came up again. the answer remains the same according to Antonetti. "with Michael, it's about him building enough volume and feeling comfortable at the plate. it's a combination of those two things." translation--Michael will join the Indians before reaching the usual number of at bats that a position player typically would in spring training. not only that, but Hoynsie additionally wrote that even if Michael is not conditioned to play every day at that point, the Tribe still plans to add him to their 25-man roster.
in the evening, Astleford posted a short article on indians.com confirming from Francona that Michael will be joining Double A Akron's game tomorrow. "he'll go about a week going every other day, every-other-day-game stuff. on the other days, some days he'll mix in batting practice, and some days he'll just mix in some of the exercise stuff with the medical people."
April 14: Michael had never played with Double A Akron before because when the Indians received him as the player to be named later in the C.C. Sabathia deal in 2008, he went straight to Columbus. so this was a new experience for him. wearing a #13 uniform, he was batting 3rd and starting in left field in the Ducks' Home Opener game versus the Bowie Baysox (Double A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles) at 6:35 pm at Canal Park.
here's Michael before the game along the 3rd baseline with Bradley Zimmer and Clint Frazier:
|photo courtesy of @H_Grove on twitter|
prior to the game, the Akron RubberDucks twitter account tweeted that Michael was expected to get two or three at bats in his rehab appearance.
an article by Elton Alexander appeared on cleveland.com during the game. Alexander supplied a few thoughts from Michael after he finished his pregame batting practice. "i'm feeling good for my second game. i'm getting reps every day. i'm feeling good. i'm in a good spot and everything is going well. i'm just getting reps and playing every day and seeing how my shoulder tests out playing on a consistent basis."
i again was lucky enough to follow along with the game on GameDay and also was able to listen to the audio online on Fox Sports 1350 through iheart.com. isn't the internet amazing? lol
during the top of the 1st inning, Michael got his first quick putout by making a catch in foul territory for the first out of the inning/game.
in Michael's first at bat, he faced right-hander Joe Gunkel in the bottom of the 1st inning with 2 outs and no score. after an 0-1 count, he grounded out to 1st base to end the inning. Grove was covering the game again and has a short video of the grounder here.
his second AB came in the bottom of the 4th inning with 2 outs and still no score. Michael swung on Gunkel's first pitch fastball and sent a line drive single to center field! that marked the first RubberDucks hit of the game and broke up Gunkel's perfect game. Grove's video is here.
after playing the top of the 5th inning in left field, Michael was subbed out defensively before the top of the 6th.
Michael met with the media after the conclusion of the game. Grove uploaded his presser on scout.com, which included a video courtesy of Jake Dungan. i've transcribed the most relevant portions. (there is some talk in there about Michael's thoughts on Zimmer and Frazier, and playing with his cousin Justin Brantley, but i cut that out here.)
when asked how his shoulder bounced back from the game he played in Columbus, Michael said, "shoulder bounced back very well. it was a great day the next day. it was a lighter day but i still got my work in and i was able to play today as well. we're in a good spot."
how'd he feel tonight? "felt great. glad to be back out there, another day closer to getting back up to the big leagues and it was a good start."
regarding the plan for the next couple days, he divulged, "i haven't really been told too much. i'll know more information tomorrow. i work out with Cleveland tomorrow."
did he have any abnormal feeling the day after he played with Columbus? "no, it was normal. i was very happy the way i responded. like i said before it's in a good spot. body feels great. i'm very happy where i am."
does he feel he has full strength? "i hope so, i've been working hard," he smiled. "i hope so. i can't put a percentage on it, but i know i'm doing great. after Day 1, i can bounce back, felt like i could play a game the next day so it's good signs."
Michael only saw three pitches total in his two at bats. was he feeling especially aggressive today? "i feel especially aggressive every day. i try to get a good fastball and put a good swing on it. i'm not gonna change my approach cause i need to see more pitches. i'm just about getting the barrel to the ball."
concerning the single he hit, he believed "it was a good swing, i'm very happy with it. almost how i felt so early, so quick after not seeing any pitches for a while. so to have a couple hits already and obviously hit a couple balls hard, i'm excited about it."
did he ever think he'd be a RubberDuck? "no, but i'm here and i'm happy to be here i guess." LOL
is there a sense of relief now that he's getting momentum and heading more consistently in the right direction after being briefly shut down in spring training? "absolutely. you never know how you're gonna bounce back especially after playing a game. but where i feel right now, i'm very excited about where i am and how well my shoulder is responding."
Alexander added some information to his cleveland.com article after the game, specifically about the 60 degree weather, which Michael stated had no effect on his rehab. "that's the good thing. i bounced back. i bounced back great playing in some cold weather down in Columbus. it didn't affect me whatsoever. so i was very excited about that.
"right now, i don't know the the full length of my timetable yet. so once i'm near full length, if we have to make some adjustments, we will. but we'll talk about that once i know more information."
Grove later tweeted that Michael is set to play for the RubberDucks again on Saturday [April 16] and will likely get three at bats. Ryan Lewis tweeted he will play on Monday [April 18] too, though that won't be finalized until tomorrow's workout.
April 15: Grove tweeted Michael (who's in Cleveland for the day) said he could have played today if he was scheduled and that he was going to take BP today and play with Akron tomorrow.
here's Michael taking BP in the batting cage at Progressive Field:
|photo courtesy of Chuck Crow via The Plain Dealer|
T.J. Zuppe later reported in an article on cleveland.cbslocal.com that Michael will play six or seven innings tomorrow. "i feel good," Michael revealed. "very excited. it was good to hit BP today, so it's almost like a back-to-back. so, we're going to go from there."
"i'm very excited [with] where i'm at," Michael continued in Lewis' post on ohio.com. "my shoulder's responded very well. i understand it's still a process, but all good signs so far."
Francona concurred. "i think he feels pretty good about himself. he's going to work out with us and he'll go back to Akron tomorrow and play about six or seven innings, depending on the volume, the length of innings, things like that. and he'll go every other day like that for a couple more days. he's doing pretty well."
Michael will need to play in consecutive games before he's allowed to come off the DL. "we'll certainly talk to him as he goes, but i think that's probably [realistic]," Tito claimed. "i think the best way to put it is we want to make sure this works. we'd hate to get him back here and then find out that maybe he's not bouncing back or he's not ready to bounce back."
April 16: Michael bat 2nd in this RubberDucks game versus the Baysox at 2:05 pm. in his first plate appearance in the bottom of the 1st inning, he faced right-hander Parker Bridwell when the Ducks were already down, 2-0. after a 3-1 count, he drew a walk. that moved Frazier up to 2nd base, who previously got on with a walk of his own. sadly, neither player came around to score, as none of the three batters behind Michael could deliver.
Michael got his next chance at the plate in the bottom of the 3rd inning. the Ducks were behind, 5-0, at that point. with 2 outs, Michael got the count full against Bridwell before grounding out to 1st base to end the inning.
his next AB of the game came in the bottom of the 5th inning with the RubberDucks down, 8-1. Frazier led off the inning with a single, so a pitching change was made. left-handed pitcher, Ashur Tolliver, took the mound for the Baysox, and after a 2-1 count, Michael lined out to center field for the 1st out.
to my surprise, Michael did bat in the bottom of the 7th inning for his fourth plate appearance of the game. he went against Tolliver again to lead off the inning with the Ducks trailing, 14-5, and after a 1-0 count, he grounded out to 2nd base. he was subbed out prior to the top of the 8th, finishing his day 0-for-3 with a walk.
defensively, Michael recorded the second putout in the top of the 2nd inning. he also earned himself another OF assist during his rehab stint. that came in the top of the 4th inning with the Ducks still losing, 5-0. Jeff Kemp led off the inning for the Baysox against Rob Kaminsky and reached 1st base on an error. the next batter, Corban Joseph, hit a line drive to left field that went over Michael's head. Joseph ran to 2nd base as Kemp attempted to score. Michael's relay throw went to Akron's shortstop, Yhoxian Medina, who threw the ball to catcher Alex Monsalve. Monsalve applied the tag on Kemp and he was out at home.
Michael played a full 7 innings in left field this game, with the top of the 7th inning being a special treat for him. as he manned left, his cousin, Justin Brantley, toed the rubber for Akron. when Justin came in, the Baysox were up, 8-5. unfortunately, Justin gave up a 3-run home run, 2-run double, and an error allowed another run to score, extending the Baysox's lead to 14-5. he was pulled before he could even finish the inning. oof.
for whatever reason, no media member covered this game that i saw, so i have no videos, photos, or postgame quotes to share.
April 17: the first bit of information i saw about Michael was from Hoynsie on twitter, saying he was working out in Cleveland today. Zuppe then tweeted that Francona said Michael could be getting close to playing consecutive days on rehab, and Zuppe's article on cleveland.cbslocal.com stated that Michael could be activated from the DL as soon as next week. Tito proposed, "we'll see. i think we wanted him to play for a week. he's getting pretty close, yeah."
April 18: Michael bat 2nd and started in left field in his third game with the RubberDucks versus the Binghamton Mets (Double A affiliate of the New York Mets) at 6:35 pm. he faced right-hander Rainy Lara with 1 out and no score in his first at bat in the bottom of the 1st inning. after an 0-1 count, he lined out to the 3rd baseman.
here's Michael playing catch with Chiz before the top of the 3rd inning:
|photo courtesy of @cle_ItIsGone on twitter|
Michael came to the plate against Lara again in the bottom of the 3rd inning with Frazier at 2nd base, 1 out, and the Ducks leading, 1-0. after a full count, Michael drew a walk. it was his first plate appearance of his minor league rehab assignment with a runner in scoring position.
Michael had his next AB in the bottom of the 5th inning. the Ducks were still up, 1-0. with 2 outs, he swung at Lara's first pitch and flew out to center field to end the inning.
the last plate appearance of the night came for Michael in the bottom of the 7th inning. he faced righty Luis Mateo with 2 outs and the Ducks ahead, 4-1. after a 2-1 count, Michael grounded out to 1st base to end the inning.
after 7 innings in left field, Michael recorded three total putouts, the most he's acquired thus far in a rehab game. they came in the top of the 1st inning (2nd out), top of the 3rd (1st out), and top of the 6th (3rd out). his putout in the top of the 3rd inning was an impressive over-the-shoulder basket catch with his back to home plate. as i listened to the audio, Ducks announcer Jim Clark did not think Michael was going to catch it.
i saw a tweet after the game from Bob Toth that said Michael would take tomorrow off and return to action on Wednesday [April 20] with Akron.
April 19: here's Michael waiting to take BP in the cage at Progressive Field:
|photo courtesy of @Indians on twitter|
according to Lewis' article on ohio.com, Michael is still working toward being able to play back-to-back days before being considered to return to Cleveland. once he crosses that milestone and responds well to it, then he'll likely be nearing his activation from the DL.
Francona elaborated, "he needs to play in back-to-back games, just to see how he bounces back and things like that. and in fairness to him, once you get a guy back, we don't have to play him every day, but you want to give him a chance to be who he is and not feeling weak because he played three days in a row or something like that."
in the evening, Bastian included an excerpt in his article on indians.com reaffirming that Michael worked out with the Indians today and will continue his rehab tomorrow in Akron.
April 20: Grove tweeted in the afternoon that Michael is set to play a back-to-back on Friday [April 22] and Saturday [April 23] in Columbus and will be reevaluated on Sunday [April 24]. Grove subsequently tweeted that Michael could be activated on Sunday if the Indians feel he's ready.
as per Grove's article on scout.com, Francona feels everyone involved is itching to get Michael back in the Tribe's lineup. "he's chomping at the bit, which is good. that means he feels good. i think he'd like to come back yesterday. we'd obviously love to have him, but i think you got to respect the medical people's opinions."
"James [Quinlan] and his guys, they know we need him," Tito continued in Zuppe's article on cleveland.cbslocal.com. "but i guess the thing he said to me that resonated the most was, he said, 'we need to do it right.' and i get it."
in Michael's fourth and final rehab game in Akron, he bat 2nd and started in left field as usual versus the B-Mets at 6:35 pm. with no score in the bottom of the 1st inning, he faced right-handed pitcher Robert Gsellman with 1 out. after being down in the count 0-2, he hit a ground ball single to left field.
his next AB occurred when he led off the bottom of the 4th inning in the still scoreless game. on a 2-2 pitch from Gsellman, he swung and missed, giving him his first strikeout of his rehab stint in 14 total plate appearances through that point.
Michael's third at bat of the game came in the bottom of the 6th inning with 2 outs and Frazier at 1st base after drawing walk. Gsellman first tried to pick off Frazier, and when he made his first pitch to Michael, he jumped on it and sent a line drive down the right field line. Frazier flew around the bases to score, giving the Ducks a 1-0 lead on Michael's RBI double. Michael tried going to 3rd base, but was thrown out by the B-Mets' catcher Colton Plaia (3rd baseman Niuman Romero applied the tag). to no avail, the Mets argued that Michael's hit wasn't fair. video was provided from the RubberDucks website on milb.com here.
this marked Michael's first double, extra base hit, RBI, go-ahead hit, go-ahead RBI, and multi-hit game of his time rehabbing with Akron. it was also his first RBI, go-ahead hit, go-ahead RBI, and multi-hit game of his overall rehab stint.
with the Ducks down, 2-1, in the bottom of the 8th inning, Michael got his last appearance at the plate. facing righty Beck Wheeler, he hit the first pitch and bounced it off the mound and into center field for a 2-out, ground ball single, giving him his third hit of the night. that represented his first 3-hit game of his rehab. Michael boasted three of the Ducks' four hits at that time in the game as well. it was one heck of an offensive showing for Michael and i was glad to see that from him.
in addition, Michael finally played 9 innings in a game. that was not considered a complete game, however, because the Ducks needed extra innings to finish their game (in walk-off fashion) lol but it was good for Michael to play what would normally be called a full game in left field. he recorded just one putout, the 2nd out in the top of the 7th inning.
April 21: a short note from Bastian's afternoon article on indians.com contended it's unlikely that Michael will be activated from the DL this weekend. while it's possible he is ready by Sunday after playing in his back-to-back games Friday and Saturday in Columbus, Monday [April 25] appears more realistic for a potential return.
April 22: today Bastian tweeted that there's no firm timetable for Michael's return, but Indians GM Mike Chernoff said Monday [April 25] might be realistic if Friday, Saturday, and Sunday go well.
Bastian wrote an article on indians.com with more details about Michael's potential return that went live right before the Indians and Clippers games began. Chernoff told reporters that Michael's "getting much, much closer, and we'll have to see how he feels. he wanted to be playing a week ago. so, the feedback's been great. hopefully everything checks out okay."
so far Michael has responded well to the games he's recently played in. "he feels great, he looks great," divulged Chernoff. "it's a matter of making sure we don't rush things and that they've built up the volume to be able to handle it up here. believe me, he's dying to get out there."
neither Francona nor Chernoff ruled out Monday as the possible target return date, but Tito would not validate it. "let's just kind of see what happens. we'll sit and talk to him. the one thing we don't want to do is talk him into coming back too quick, because he would do that--i guarantee it. so we want to sit and talk to him, but also talk to [head athletic trainer] James Quinlan and the medical staff and try to make a good decision."
when i was listening to the Clippers pregame show, Michael was on as their guest. he was initially asked if he could remember his time playing with the team back in 2009. he recalled his old roles as a leadoff hitter (who tried to work the count, get on base, and see a lot of pitches) and center fielder. Michael also admitted that his father, Mickey, told him years ago that he'd be a run producer, middle of the order, 3-hole hitter someday. Michael didn't believe him then, but turns out Mickey was right and Michael was wrong lol
after that, Michael was asked how he's feeling physically. he said he was feeling great and that he's doing more and more every day. he's been lifting upper body for the last week and a half or so and he's been responding great to playing in games.
the Clippers had to make a move in order to add Michael to their roster for his continued rehab. he bat 2nd and started in left field in the game versus the Toledo Mud Hens (Triple A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers) at 7:15 pm. in Michael's first at bat in the bottom of the 1st inning, he faced right-hander Michael Fulmer with 1 out and no score.
here's Michael at the plate:
|photo courtesy of @nickwiget on twitter|
after a 2-0 count, he grounded out to 2nd base.
his next AB came in the bottom of the 3rd inning, with Collin Cowgill at 2nd base, 1 out, and the game tied at 1. the count was even at 2 when Michael fouled off Fulmer's fifth pitch. then, on the 6th pitch of the at bat, Michael swung and missed for the 2nd out of the inning.
the Clippers had just taken the lead, 4-3, when Michael stepped to the plate again in the bottom of the 4th inning with Cowgill at 3rd base, Michael Martinez at 1st base, and 2 outs. Michael connected with Fulmer's first offering and lined out to left field to end the inning.
Michael led off the bottom of the 7th inning with the Clippers up, 6-4, in his final plate appearance of the night. southpaw Drake Britton came on to pitch for the Mud Hens, and on the 7th pitch of a full count, Michael drew a walk to get on base for the first time in the game. he moved up to 2nd base when Aguilar drew a walk of his own and then scored a run when Joey Butler hit a ground ball single to center field.
Michael played a complete game (9 innings) in left field but did not have any defensive chances.
April 23: before the Indians' afternoon game, Grove tweeted that Francona said Michael is holding up health-wise and he'll have a meeting with the staff tomorrow, probably via phone.
during the Tribe game, Hammy declared on the radio broadcast that when Michael does return, he's only going to play left field this year and will not play any center field. he also remarked that Michael won't be able to play 5 or 6 days in a row and will need to get some days off.
in his final minor league rehab assignment, Michael bat 2nd and started in left field in the Clippers game versus the Gwinnett Braves (Triple A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves) at 7:15 pm. he faced Lucas Sims, a right-handed pitcher, with 1 out and no score in his first at bat in the bottom of the 1st inning.
here's Michael at the plate:
|photo courtesy of @bethwatkins on twitter|
after a 2-2 count, he flew out to left field.
Michael led off the bottom of the 4th inning with the Clippers down, 1-0. after an 0-1 count, he hit Sims' next pitch and grounded out to short.
the Clippers had the lead, 2-1, when Michael came to bat in the bottom of the 5th inning with Martinez at 1st base and 1 out. Sims first attempted to pick off Martinez before throwing Michael ball one. then Sims tried picking off Martinez again. finally, after a 2-1 count, Michael grounded out to 2nd base for the 2nd out of the inning. Martinez advanced to 2nd base on the play.
Michael got his next chance at the plate in the bottom of the 6th inning. the Clippers were up, 4-1, at that point and the bases were loaded with Gonzalez at 3rd, Adam Moore at 2nd, and Anthony Recker at 1st base. right-hander Rob Wooten was on the mound for the G-Braves and there was 1 out. after a 1-0 count, Michael hit a fly ball to left field, enabling Gonzalez to score and lengthen the Clippers' lead to 5-1. give Michael credit for a sacrifice fly and his first RBI during his rehab in Columbus.
due to the offensive output of the Clippers, Michael got a fifth plate appearance in the game, coming in the bottom of the 8th inning with 1 out and the ClipShow on top, 7-1. righty Jose Ramirez was pitching for the Braves. Martinez was on at 1st base after drawing a walk. Michael was behind in the count, 1-2, before he reached on a fielder's choice. he grounded out to the 1st baseman, who threw the ball to the Braves' shortstop, which erased Martinez from the basepaths. knowing that that was potentially Michael's final AB of his 2016 rehab, i wish it had gone better.
in the field, Michael played a full nine innings for his second complete game in as many days. he finally did record one putout with the Clippers, which came in the form of the very first out in the 1st inning.
April 24: Michael was removed from the Clippers' roster early in the morning according to their twitter. then shortly before 11:30 am, the Indians twitter account proclaimed that in the morning session, Francona told the media that Michael will join the team tonight in Minnesota to be assessed by the medical staff and discuss his activation.
Bastian tweeted that Michael will meet with Francona and the medical staff on Monday [April 25] before the game, and also that Francona would not go as far as saying Michael would be activated from the DL on Monday, but that looks like a realistic scenario.
however, Hoynsie tweeted that Tito said Michael does not have to be ready to play every day to be activated.
during the Indians game radio broadcast, Hamilton once again made a comment about Michael's inevitable return, stating they want to be able to play him at least 2-3 days in a row.
later in the afternoon, i pulled some more info and quotes from the skipper himself from both Bastian's indians.com article and Hoynsie's cleveland.com article. "when we get to the ballpark, we'll sit and talk to him, and meet with him and kind of assess what the next step should be or what we should do. but he'll have a down day [Sunday], which will be good for him after playing two in a row. by all accounts, he's doing really well.
"he's been great. he's done everything. he's done a fantastic job trying to be ready to play. that's why--besides really wanting him because he's a good player--i don't stress much about it, because i know he's doing everything in his power to be ready to play. i'm proud of him, actually. just how he plays left field and hits third, that's how he's done in his rehab."
Tito again restated that if Michael needs a scheduled off day here and there in the early going, that would not stop the team from activating him. they will gladly play him 3 to 4 days a week until he's ready to return to the lineup full-time. "if he's playing two out of three the first week or whatever, [that's] better than not having him back. as long as he's healthy when he plays, you can build up the volume. you don't have to do that in Triple A. that seems like a waste of some good at bats that we could have up here."
April 25: the Indians twitter account declared Michael has been activated from the DL!!! be that as it may, he disappointingly was not in the starting lineup. Bastian tweeted that Francona felt with the off day on Thursday [April 28], it made sense to play Michael Tuesday [April 26] and Wednesday [April 27], then Friday [April 29] and Saturday [April 30], and maybe Sunday [May 1] because the Indians have off again on Monday [May 2].
Bastian's indians.com article said Francona and head athletic trainer, James Quinlan, met with Michael before the game to make sure he was ready to join the team roster. as for getting him back, Francona thinks "it will be really good for us. not only is he one of the better hitters in the game, but he's kind of the heart and soul of this team. he's a really good teammate. he's a really good player. he's a really good influence. it'll be really good to have him."
did Michael try to talk his way into the night's lineup? smiling, Michael revealed, "of course i did. but, at the same time, it's whatever it takes to help the team at this time."
a video on indians.com had the final word from Michael. "it feels great to be back in this locker room with these guys and helping the team out, any chance i can. of course i wanted to be back earlier, but we took the smart approach and i'm healthy and excited to be back with this team.
"i do plan on playing back-to-back days, but also we're going to be smart at the same time. we're going to use our heads and just kind of make sense where, do i take a day off or does it make sense to keep pushing it? so i'm gonna communicate the best i can and go from there.
"i hope i go straight to the outfield. i believe i'm pretty good on defense so, if i get out there and make a catch or throw somebody out or do anything on the defensive side as well, i hope to play left field.
"every game i was playing, i was building up more strength. i wasn't having no pain or soreness after games which was very important and i continue to do that. when i came back, even when i started playing, i felt great and i continue to feel great and i'm excited."
i'm well aware that a lot of questions still surround Michael right now and it almost feels exactly like the end of last spring when we didn't know if his lower back strain had completely subsided. (reminder: it hadn't.)
1. did Michael acquire enough practice at bats throughout his rehab, or is he going to be too rusty to be an immediate contributor to the lineup?
--i'm not convinced he's gonna be productive for us right off the bat. we very well could possibly see him still trying to "find himself" at the plate or get his timing down during his first couple weeks with the Tribe. maybe they should have allowed him a few more games to get more ABs and potentially a few more hits for his confidence level.
2. it is really more beneficial to have Michael with the team now when he's presumably not physically ready yet to play every day?
-- i hate how once again Francona is broadcasting that it's okay if Michael comes back and doesn't play every game. i didn't want him to be on a 3 days on, 1 day off kind of schedule this year, even if it's only temporary.
3. should Michael have been given/asked for more time to play in back-to-back games repeatedly to ensure he'll be able to sustain a full season despite such a short rehab?
--defensively, he only played a full nine innings in a game three times, including two consecutive. that's enough preparation now for him to play 5-6 games a week? i wish he would have played a minimum of TWO sets of back-to-backs before he was activated.
4. what's going to happen if Michael makes a diving catch?
--he never made a diving catch during his any of rehab appearances, which they once said was a necessary step prior to coming back. it's going to be a nerve-wracking sight when he finally attempts a dive during an Indians game. one hard fall could ruin everything...
i can't hide my concerns because, even though it's already April 25, this was still an awfully fast rehabilitation. i just hope he's physically ready for the grind.
i understand and respect Michael's desire to get back as soon as possible, but seven games of rehab doesn't seem like nearly enough to me. if you want to compare it to a player's regular spring training, it's like he barely played half a spring. i feel like this is another classic case of the team saying "we're not going to rush him back," but then they end up doing just that. with added pressure of the Indians needing to start off (April) better than usual, i think he absolutely was brought back on the "a little too soon" side of the spectrum.
in closing, here's some food for thought: shortly after word came out that Michael had shoulder surgery, many people expressed apprehensiveness about it, claiming that some players who've had this surgery don't really ever come back from it. and that's true. even with a successful surgery, there are ballplayers who just weren't the same and couldn't hit [well] anymore. based on Michael's less than desirable rehab stats, you could argue that he's fallen victim to those worries and that pattern. but unless i see him doing poorly for the first couple months of the season after he returns, i'm not gonna buy into that. right now, i'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and i recommend fans do the same. Michael's earned it.
if you're interested in seeing all of Michael's rehab numbers and statistics, please read the continuation of this blog:
Brantley's 2016 Cactus League & Minor League Rehab #s and My Expectations