this blog is going to be a lot like the June blog in that many sections are bare or have been omitted because Michael did not play in any July games, at least not in the big leagues. most of what you're about to read is simply DL updates and rehab game performances. boy i can't wait until Michael rejoins the Tribe so things can get back to normal 'round here lol
i thought this was going to be a good month for Michael because when i flipped my 2016 Cleveland Indians calendar over to July, i saw it was Michael Brantley month. i took that as a sign he was destined to return, but apparently, destiny had other plans for Dr. Smooth.
the Indians played a total of 24 games in July. Michael played zero. sound familiar? yeah, only this time the Indians went
just 12-12 without him. that's not terrible, but when you compare it to June when they went 22-6, there's no doubt Michael's bat would have been useful. i think a lot of us believed he'd be off the DL by now, so for him to have suffered another setback is a tough pill to swallow.
initially, there were high hopes that Michael would be back with the Tribe before the end of July, but that hope got squashed about two and a half weeks into the month. he was in the midst of his minor league rehab assignment when he began experiencing discomfort in the follow-through of his swing. the Indians quickly put his rehab on hold and sent him for two MRIs, only to discover that Michael had scar tissue along the right biceps tendon. after a small hydrodissection procedure and three days of rest, he was cleared to start swinging a bat again. (more details about this can be found in the DL Updates section of the blog below.)
he's currently hitting off a pitching machine and has not yet resumed his rehab assignment. however, i think it's fair to assume that if the procedure really did work, and if he doesn't encounter anymore soreness, then Michael might return sometime in August. skeptical? trust me, i understand.
if i said that Michael's third in-season setback (and fourth overall) didn't concern me at all, i'd be lying. nobody can guarantee that this won't happen again. the cycle of Michael building up his hitting program, playing in games, developing soreness, and then having to be shut down could continue. i think the only way to actually make this go away is more consistent rest for the shoulder without swinging a bat. considering the level of hard work and intensity that a comeback requires, it's probably not the best thing for him or his shoulder right now. but we know he's not going to stop trying--not unless the Indians tell him to. so we'll have to wait and see how the upcoming rehab games go. maybe he really will be activated from the DL in August and end up playing a portion of the remainder of the year.
i will suggest this though. if he runs into yet another complication and they know he's not going to be able to come back by September, then they really need to contemplate just shutting him down from all baseball activities for the rest of the season and letting him heal up. that pains me to say, but the last thing we want is for him to have to go through all of this next year too because he didn't get enough down time in the offseason before he started his 2017 season preparations.
once again, i cannot recap Michael's performance for the month. (i will be summarizing Michael's July rehab performances in a separate blog after he restarts his rehab assignment and then completes it.) so instead, i wrote another short Indians recap. the boys were on the road at the start of July finishing up three games of a 4-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays. they won one and lost two.
the Tribe then returned home for two series before the All Star Break. they played three games versus the Detroit Tigers and four games versus the New York Yankees. they were winners of the Detroit series, taking two games, but losers of the NY series, dropping three.
the Indians kicked off their second half with a 9-game, 10-day road trip that began with three games against the Minnesota Twins, whom they beat twice. next, they moved on to play against the Kansas City Royals and took that series with two wins out of three games. finally, after an off day, they had to do battle with the Baltimore Orioles and got swept in three games.
the Tribe had another day off before their month of July concluded at Progressive Field where they faced the Washington Nationals in a quick 2-game series followed by a 3-gamer versus the Oakland Athletics. they split the series with Washington and, after yet another off day, swept Oakland. that allowed them to finish with a respectable .500 record for July.
DL Updates WITH Rehab Game Details & My Thoughts
note: if i had included all of Michael's July DL updates in this blog, you all would hate me. so since i've already posted updates from the first 10 days of July in another blog, i'm only going to feature the last 21 days worth of July updates here. to piggyback off that, i also debated whether or not i should incorporate every detail of Michael's rehab games here because that will all be going in a separate "DL Updates & Rehab Details" post once his (seemingly never-ending) DL stint is over. and this is technically supposed to be a blog about Michael's month in the big leagues--which doesn't cover a whole lot, i know. but again, i'm fully aware that people are antsy for as much information as possible, so i'm giving you what i got. JUST READ WHAT YOU LIKE. and in case you don't know, i live tweet Michael's rehab games. so when he goes back out on another assignment, make sure you're following me on twitter to get the latest info as it's happening.
to see all of Michael's DL updates from before the All Star Break in July, please refer back to:
Brantley's First Half 2016 #s (containing updates from July 1-10)
July 11: at long last, Michael began his minor league rehab assignment. he started out with the Class A short season Mahoning Valley Scrappers and played in their game versus the Tri-City ValleyCats (Class A affiliate of the Houston Astros) at Eastwood Field in Niles, Ohio at 7:05 pm. he was batting 2nd, starting in left field, and wearing his usual number, 23, on his jersey. this marked the first time in his career that Michael ever played with the Scrappers because he did not come up in the Indians' organization. it was also the first game of any kind that Michael had played in since May 9!
just like before, i had the GameDay pulled up on my computer and i listened to CBS Sports Radio 1240's audio broadcast for free online at wbbw.com. therefore, i have all the particulars from Michael's time in the game.
in his first trip to the plate with 1 out and no score in the bottom of the 1st inning, Michael faced right-handed pitcher Dustin Hunt and took four straight balls to draw a walk.
|photo courtesy of @JdotBrady13 on twitter|
ItsAllTribe and Mike Melaragno posted short videos of his plate appearance on their twitter accounts. Michael was quickly erased at 2nd base, however, when he broke up a double play and allowed designated hitter Andrew Calica to reach 1st base on a fielder's choice.
Michael had a chance to really do some damage when he came to bat in the bottom of the 2nd inning with 2 outs, bases loaded, and the Scrappers leading, 1-0. catcher Michael Tinsley was at 3rd base, right fielder Silento Sayles was at 2nd, and center fielder Gabriel Mejia was at 1st. facing Hunt again, Michael flew out to center field after a 2-1 count to end the inning. former Indian Jason Stanford had joined Scrappers play-by-play radio announcer Tim Pozsgai for this game and they commented that once Michael gets his timing back, that flyout will be a home run. video of the AB was again provided by Melaragno as well as Hayden Grove, and Lori Babik took a great video of Michael on deck before his at bat.
also during the 2nd inning, Pozsgai shared with the radio listeners that Michael took BP early prior to the game and you can tell every pitch he's working on something. soon after, i saw that Robert Hayes tweeted Michael signed a few autographs before the game, too.
his third and final plate appearance of the night came in the bottom of the 4th inning with 1 out, Mejia at 1st base, and the Scrappers up, 2-0.
|photo courtesy of @cle_ItIsGone on twitter|
the ValleyCats had just made a pitching change because they wanted a lefty-lefty match-up, so Ryan Hartman was on in relief of Hunt. after a 1-2 count, Michael hit a ground ball to 2nd and up the middle into center field. that single gave him his first hit of the game and moved Mejia over to 2nd base. Melaragno, Grove, Jonathan Brady, and Tommy Vito all uploaded video of the AB to their twitter accounts.
once Michael completed the top of the 5th inning in left field, his night was over. defensively, he recorded one putout, which occurred in the top of the 1st inning when he easily caught a liner to left for the first out of the game.
Michael met with reporters after the game and a 5 minute video of that was included in an article on scout.com by Corey Crisan. i only transcribed the most pertinent parts that deal with his rehab, but if you want to hear his thoughts about the Scrappers' ballpark and the players themselves, then you can watch the video in its entirety.
how'd it feel out there? "it felt great," Michael began. "happy to be back out there playing baseball again. i'm 100% healthy. it's a matter of how i recover now. all went well today. like i said, it feels good to be out there playing baseball again."
any concrete timeline as far as his return? "no. i got more hurdles, more obstacles to come and i got more games to play so nothing's set in stone right now."
did he have a specific approach at the plate tonight or was it just more going through the motions? "i never want to go through the motions. the object is to get a hit, the goal is to get a hit or have a good at bat at least. but it's gonna take time. i know, i understand that. hitting's not very easy to do. it's a game of adjustments and i look forward to making them as i continue this rehab process."
how good was it to get that base hit off a left-hander? "it was just nice to see a left-handed pitcher. i'm gonna see a lot of 'em when i get back to the Major League level so the more i can see down here in rehab and just kind of get comfortable facing left-handers, the better off i'm gonna be and the better off it's gonna help the team win more ballgames."
with the success the club's had in the first half, how difficult has it been to have to miss all this time? "hasn't been difficult at all. i've been upset at having missed time, but they're playing great. it's fun to watch. i'm a fan just like you guys are, i root 'em on as hard as all the fans do as well. it'd be probably even tougher for me if they weren't doing... struggling, i'd probably be more upset. but they're doing great, they're playing great baseball, and it's fun to watch."
Lake County on Wednesday and then Akron over the weekend, is that correct? "that's about correct. lord willing i wake up in the morning and everything feels great. yeah, that's the goal."
and beyond that, he doesn't know yet? "and beyond that i don't know yet," Michael reaffirmed. "it's more of a day-by-day basis, how i'm feeling, and i'm gonna start playing some back-to-back games and just getting my baseball legs underneath me."
what's the most difficult part of the rehab process? "the most difficult part? everything. i mean, it's baseball. getting reads and jumps to seeing, tracking pitches, swinging at quality pitches, having quality at bats. this is a very difficult game to play so you just gotta get your legs back under you for the most part of this... baseball-specific activities.
"...i know i'm stronger. i think that's one of the most important things during this rehab process. i keyed on strengths, i keyed on my weaknesses that i needed to develop and i feel like i did a good job. the medical staff had a great game plan and a great program that i went through and all feels well right now. i'm very excited."
has anybody in particular helped him through this process emotionally or mentally? "everybody. my teammates, my upper management, staff, my own family. everybody's been very supportive. it's not easy not being able to do something that you love and enjoy being out there with the guys. this is the first time i've missed an extended period of time especially during the season, so it was difficult for the time being, but i'm just glad to be working my way back."
what kind of reinforcement has the front office given him throughout his whole rehab process? "that they're in my corner. they understand what i'm going through and that i just need to make sure that i'm being truthful and honest and positive and everything that's going on. that i'm not holding anything back and they just want me to be 100% healthy."
July 13: after a day off, Michael had his next rehab assignment scheduled with the Class A Lake County Captains in their game versus the Cedar Rapids Kernels (Class A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins) at Classic Park in Eastlake, Ohio at 7:00 pm. he was batting 2nd, starting in left field, and once again wearing his usual number, 23, on his Captains jersey. and just like with the Single A Scrappers, this was the first time in his career that he ever played with the Captains. although, he did play in Classic Park when he was in Single A with the West Virginia Power almost a decade ago lol so it was a somewhat familiar surrounding already. not to mention his Indians teammate, Roberto Perez, was rehabbing with him at Lake County and batting 3rd behind him in this game.
Melaragno was there covering Michael's rehab again and recorded some of his pregame media session, as did Ryan Cooper. in addition, the cleveland.com youtube channel had video of both Michael talking with reporters and taking BP. i transcribed the parts pertaining to his rehab only.
[does he feel] 100%? "i'm getting there. it's gonna take a little bit of time. that's what we have rehab games for and all's going well so far."
any concerns at all, any apprehension? are these rehab assignments for timing, for getting in game shape, stuff like that? "i just gotta feel 100% every day when i come to the field. how i wake up and just how i'm recovering every day is very important. and obviously getting my baseball legs underneath me, getting the routes down, good quality at bats, and go from there."
what's his timetable now? "i'm not quite sure, i take it day by day." two weeks? "i got nothing for ya, i take it day by day."
how'd it go at Mahoning Valley? "all went well. i woke up the next day feeling great. it was a good first day, i got a lot of work in. i got some balls in the outfield, ran the bases a couple times, so all went well."
defensively, that's not really a question is it? the injury didn't interfere with that? "correct."
does he feel like as soon as he can hit, he'll be back? that's the key, right? "it all depends on how well i'm hitting and obviously getting back into baseball shape. this is almost like a mini-spring training for me, so i gotta take full advantage of it and just get ready to come back and help my teammates."
is there some level of frustration, having to battle back, especially when everything seemed to be lining up so well after the first time? "no one ever wants to get hurt. you always want to be with your teammates. it's like a family, you miss 'em when they're gone. so i just look forward to getting back there as soon as i can."
these rehab games, does he feel like they're just baseball as always or is there something different in his approach or what he's looking to work on specifically? "i try to work on the same thing i'm gonna do on the big league level. there's no reason to change something down here because it's the minor leagues. i gotta get ready for big league pitching and i'm gonna take the same quality and hopefully consistent at bats that i'll take up there."
when will he know he's ready? "when will i know i'm ready? i can't tell you that answer." shrugging he offered, "when i have a few games under my belt, i know i'm recovering great every day, and i feel in baseball shape."
here's a photo of Michael taking batting practice in the afternoon before the game:
|photo courtesy of @Hoynsie on twitter|
additionally, Tony Zarrella uploaded a video of Michael taking BP on his twitter account.
also before the game, Melaragno posted a photo of Michael signing autographs for fans.
come gametime, i again had the GameDay pulled up on my computer. unfortunately, i could only listen to the beginning of the game on the Lake County Captains Baseball Network for free online at tunein.com because, for whatever reason, the audio died on me right before Michael's first AB in the bottom of the 1st inning. of course. i did, however, hear play-by-play radio broadcaster Andrew Luftglass say Michael was scheduled to play about 5 innings in the game.
when Michael had his first at bat, he came to the plate to a roaring ovation according to the postgame story on CaptainsBaseball.com. he faced right-handed pitcher Cody Stashak in the bottom of the 1st inning with 1 out and the Captains down, 1-0. after an 0-1 count, Michael hit a line drive double down the right field line.
|photo courtesy of @MikeMcGrath on twitter|
Melaragno posted the video on twitter.
Michael's second at bat of the game came in the bottom of the 3rd inning with 1 out, shortstop Willi Castro at 1st base, and the game tied at 1. after Stashak threw Michael ball 1, Castro was caught stealing 2nd base for the 2nd out of the inning. then, on the next pitch, Michael hit a line drive single that went over the head of the Kernels' 1st baseman (per the article on CaptainsBaseball.com) and down the right field line. Melaragno supplied that video. subsequently, Paul Hoynes tweeted that Michael passed another test when he slid hard into 2nd base on Perez's forceout to end the inning.
in the bottom of the 5th inning, Michael had his third and final AB of the night. Castro was at 1st base with 2 outs and the Captains behind, 6-2. after a full count, Michael fouled off Stashak's next 2 pitches before grounding out to 2nd base (on the 8th pitch) to end the inning. Melaragno delivered video once more.
defensively, Michael recorded just one putout in the five total innings he played in left field. it transpired in the top of the 1st inning when he caught a flyout in foul territory for out number 2.
i did not see any postgame interview online anywhere. but i guess Michael can now claim he played with every team in the Tribe's organization except the Lynchburg Hillcats.
July 14: the Akron RubberDucks twitter account confirmed Michael would be playing in their rehab game tomorrow [July 15].
Jordan Bastian tweeted Terry Francona declared Michael's doing great and today was a really encouraging day with how he bounced back. he'll go to Akron Friday [July 15] and play in back-to-back games soon.
later, Bastian's article on indians.com uncovered that Michael went through a workout today in Cleveland while the team headed to Minneapolis. "i think today was his best day because he felt really good and it was after playing," Tito avowed. "every time he makes a step forward, it's good. depending on how the next couple days go, he's probably going to have a back-to-back here pretty soon. i think some of it depends on maybe how much he swings. i think the trainers want to have a chance to talk to him [before making the schedule]. when he comes back, we want him to be prepared to play multiple days in a row. and he feels strongly about that, too. so, that means you've got to do that in the minor leagues first."
July 15: Michael's next rehab assignment took place with the Double A Akron RubberDucks in their game versus the Erie SeaWolves (Double A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers) at Canal Park in Akron, Ohio at 7:05 pm. if you recall, he played with Akron for the first time previously this year during his April minor league rehab. but, unlike then when he was wearing #13, he this time had his regular #23 on the special RubberDucks uniform. he bat 2nd and started in left field.
before the game, RubberDucks manager David Wallace conceded he didn't know if Michael would play with Akron tomorrow yet, and that it would depend on how he felt tomorrow.
as usual, i had the GameDay on my computer and also listened to the audio from FOX Sports 1350 for free online at tunein.com.
facing right-hander Artie Lewicki in his first at bat in the bottom of the 1st inning with 1 out and no score, Michael hit a ground ball to 1st base after a 1-1 count for the 2nd out of the inning.
Michael led off the bottom of the 3rd inning against Lewicki with the RubberDucks up, 1-0. after a 1-2 count, he flew out to center field for the 1st out of the inning.
his next at bat came in the bottom of the 5th inning with 1 out and the Ducks still on top, 1-0. Lewicki fell behind in the count, 1-0, but then Michael popped out to short for the 2nd out of the inning. as his AB began, RubberDucks radio broadcaster Jim Clark remarked he was scheduled to play 7 innings in the game.
in the bottom of the 7th inning, Michael got his fourth and final trip to the plate. he led it off with the RubberDucks now leading, 2-0. facing righty pitcher Santiago Garrido, he grounded out to 2nd base after a 1-0 count and ended his night going 0-for-4 offensively. (to see short videos of Michael's last three at bats, check out Jeff Ellis' postgame article on scout.com.)
defensively, Michael played 7 innings and recorded three putouts. he caught a fly ball to left field for the 3rd out in the top of the 1st inning, a fly ball to left for the 1st out in the top of the 4th, and a line out to left for the 1st out in the top of the 5th.
once Michael's night was over, Clark unveiled that a trainer from the big league club always accompanies a player on his rehab assignment to assess how he's progressing, and that Michael will remain with the RubberDucks and either play tomorrow in a back-to-back or Sunday [July 17] depending on how he feels and what the trainer says.
after the game, Ellis tweeted Michael would play tomorrow as the DH for Akron.
video of some of Michael's postgame media session was later made available in Jake Dungan's scout.com article. here's the written Q&A.
how's he feeling after tonight? "good. another rehab game down. got to see some pitches, put some swings on some balls, so all went well."
the plan for him to come back tomorrow, is there any change in that? "nope. no change in that."
he'll be DHing tomorrow? "that's the plan, that i'll be DHing tomorrow, yes."
did he feel he tried to rush it too much when he came back earlier this season? "no, i don't think i rushed it at all. i just think it was a chain of events that happened that kinda pushed me back. i felt good going into it and i was in a positive mind-frame, my body felt well, and it just didn't work out."
is he feeling good out there? is it part of the process even though he didn't get a hit tonight? "it is part of the process, you're not gonna get a hit every night. hitting's hard. but i'm just getting my baseball legs back under me, track some more pitches. it's only my third game so hopefully it'll get a little bit better."
describe the rehab process a little bit. "it's long. it's tiring. it's a lot of repetitions. but at the same time you're doing it to get back with a great group of guys that are doing great at the big league level. you just want to go out there, get back with them as soon as possible and impact them in a positive way.
"...inside i can't wait to get back and just join 'em. but it's great for me to watch how successful they're doing and that they're playing good, quality baseball and winning a lot of games. so it's fun to watch. i'm a cheerleader right now but that's what i gotta do so hopefully i'll be joining them soon."
July 16: in the morning, Terry Pluto's new Terry's Talkin' article on cleveland.com acknowledged that Michael's rehab assignment will "continue into next week."
before 4:30 pm, the Akron RubberDucks twitter account posted breaking news that Michael would not be playing in tonight's game and will instead be back in their lineup tomorrow.
Grove tweeted that last night Michael said he wanted to play today and this seemed to be precautionary. Hoynsie tweeted that Tito specified it was the trainer's call and this was NOT considered to be a setback.
later, Grove wrote in a scout.com article that Michael received treatment on his shoulder at Canal Park and a trainer deemed it beneficial for Michael to sit on Saturday. the article also contained a video of Wallace conversing with reporters, where he asserted Michael looked like himself last night and all signs point positive.
"he's feeling good," Francona proclaimed in Hoynsie's evening article on cleveland.com. "he wanted to play, but it was a decision by the trainer." and when the skipper was asked if Michael would play in consecutive games Sunday and Monday [July 18], he balked, "well, i don't know if we have a goal like that. i think the goal is if he shows up and feels good, he plays. then he and the medical people will continue to map out what's in his best interest."
July 17: Michael was back in uniform with the RubberDucks for the final game of their series versus the Erie SeaWolves at Canal Park in Akron, Ohio at 2:05 pm. he was batting 2nd, starting in left field, and wearing #23. it was speculated by the Akron RubberDucks twitter account that he would be playing 7 innings like he did in his previous game.
as always, i had the GameDay pulled up on my computer and listened to the audio from FOX Sports 1350 for free online at tunein.com.
Michael faced right-handed starter David Martinez in his first at bat with center fielder Bradley Zimmer at 2nd base, no outs, and no score in the bottom of the 1st inning. after a 1-1 count, he hit a ground ball to the shortstop. Zimmer was already running to 3rd base, so the SeaWolves opted to throw him out and Michael was able to reach 1st base on a fielder's choice. he never came around to score though because right fielder Clint Frazier hit into an inning-ending double play.
Michael led off the bottom of the 4th inning against Martinez with the RubberDucks down, 4-0, and after a 1-2 count, he hit another ground ball to short for the 1st out of the inning.
his next at bat came in the bottom of the 6th inning with 1 out, shortstop Ivan Castillo at 2nd base, Zimmer at 1st, and the Ducks losing, 8-0. after a 1-0 count, Michael hit a ground ball to 1st, except SeaWolves 1st baseman Corey Jones bobbled it, so Michael reached on a fielding error to load the bases. he later advanced to 3rd base after 1st baseman Nellie Rodriguez hit a 2-run single to right field, and then scored the first run of his rehab assignment on a 3-run home run to left field by DH Jeremy Lucas.
Michael could have gotten a fourth at bat in the bottom of the 7th, but he was replaced by pinch hitter, Jordan Smith. he played 7 innings in left field but didn't have any putouts or defensive chances.
in an excerpt from his article on indians.com, Bastian wrote Michael should be close to playing in consecutive games and it's possible that he moves his rehab to Triple A Columbus this week since they are at home and Akron is going on the road.
Dungan again provided a little video of Michael speaking to reporters after the game on scout.com. my transcription follows.
what did he feel yesterday that kept him from playing? "not too much. it wasn't my decision. my decision was i tell 'em how i feel every day and we go by them, like a day by day process." shrugging his shoulders he went on, "i felt okay and we just skipped a day."
today, did he feel alright taking the swings? "yeah, i felt okay. i'd like to get a couple more hits, that'd be nice, but just getting the repetition down is very important."
what has it been about the last week or so that has allowed him to be so excited? "just more of how i responded every day waking up. i think that's one of the biggest things, recovery time. that's one of the things i kept fighting with. and just having the opportunity to keep playing baseball every day and being able to play baseball every day is very important."
has he had any discomfort in his shoulder or biceps in the last couple days? "i've been doing great. i'm very excited where everything was going ahead and i just want to continue waking up in the morning feeling like i'm ready to go play baseball again."
what's the next step? "keep playing more games. we gotta figure out exactly what day, whether it be tomorrow or the next day, and seeing how i feel when i wake up every morning. it's important."
July 18: when the Clippers lineup came out after 5 pm and Michael's name wasn't in it, i knew he wasn't playing today because the other three minor league teams were either on the road or had the day off. about an hour later in the early evening, Bastian tweeted Michael had an off day today and he'll meet with the trainers to discuss the next steps; no schedule in place until then.
after 10 pm during the Indians game, Tom Hamilton relayed to the WTAM 1100 radio listeners that Michael was "shut down" today and will be re-evaluated tomorrow. Hammy didn't think it was a good thing that Michael "only played one game in the last three days" and that you'd think he'd be playing back-to-backs by now. he finished up by assuming Michael wouldn't be back as quick as people originally hoped. it worried me because i remembered one time last year when reporters wrote one thing about Michael before a game, and Hammy conveyed something different during the game that was essentially "worse" news, and Hammy ended up being right.
July 19: turns out Hammy had the more accurate report yesterday because the Indians twitter account tweeted Michael will undergo a precautionary MRI tomorrow and that his rehab was on hold for now. soon after, Bastian tweeted an update from Francona, saying he's feeling discomfort again in his shoulder at the end of his swing.
MY THOUGHTS: well, i guess that explains why Michael didn't get that fourth at bat in his July 17 rehab game. aside from feeling sad, i felt duped. was Michael not just asked questions in his postgame interview on July 17 about if he felt alright taking swings and has he had any discomfort in his shoulder or biceps? and did he not respond that he felt okay and has been doing great? he even went as far as to express he was very excited where everything was going. so, that was all a lie? granted, Michael shouldn't be the one publicizing to reporters that his shoulder hurt on his follow-through, especially if this was before the Indians and trainers even knew about it. but still, if he answered those questions full well knowing it was all bullshit, i can't help but be disappointed, even if deceit was the proper reaction in that situation.
Bastian posted an article on indians.com later on with additional details from Francona. "he swung in one of his at bats the other night and he felt his shoulder again. so, we kind of convened and the way he kind of phrased it to me was, he didn't seem terribly worried about it, he just feels like he's having a tough time pushing through the last little bit [of his swing]." then Tito divulged that Michael's been "unbelievably" honest throughout his comeback. "there's been a couple times where he's come up to me and apologized. his effort has been incredible. all the reasons we want him back, and the admiration we have for him, doesn't go away when his shoulder hurts."
"we're going off by how Michael is feeling," Indians President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti explained. "Michael was really encouraged, as he was working through this progression. each step of the way, he was feeling healthy and strong. the other day, he just developed a little bit of soreness. we now need to hit the pause button and see what the next steps are."
as for shutting him down for the rest of the season, Antonetti wouldn't hear it. "we're not to that point, yet. we want to try to first understand what's going on. what's causing this to continue to happen? what's the root of the soreness he's experiencing now? and, how do we help him through that?"
MY OPINIONS: not enough rest, not enough rest, let him rest. he needs to go consecutive months without swinging a bat before this issue will fully resolve.
at night, Hoynsie came out with his own article on cleveland.com and supplied supplemental information from the skipper. "he'll have an enhanced imaging (test) done Wednesday [July 20] morning. we feel an obligation to him to try and do everything correctly. the one thing that's hard about that is that you're looking at a shoulder that has been operated on twice. a lot of times they show wear and tear so it's difficult."
[to clarify: Michael had a similar right shoulder surgery at the end of his rookie league season in 2005, and spent time on the DL in 2006 during his time with the Single A West Virginia Power.]
"hopefully, we get an answer where it gives some peace of mind. it's better than not doing anything. it's easy to understand (the difficulty of finding the source of the pain) in a small joint like the shoulder unless you go in and look. i guarantee if you went into every pitcher's elbow or shoulder, they'd never pitch. you'll find something on everybody. so you go on symptoms...but he's hurting."
July 20: with the Tribe game being early--2:15 pm start time--i figured we wouldn't get an update on Michael before the game. and we didn't. however, not even an hour into the game, Hammy mentioned on the radio that the MRI Michael had this morning was the extensive one where they inject the dye in order to get a clearer picture. he stressed they want to make sure there's nothing else going on in there, and we should know more in the coming hours. nothing ever came. at night, Bastian replied to someone on twitter that he might have some news on Michael tomorrow, but Friday [July 22] for sure.
July 21: in the afternoon, Bastian posted a quick tweet maintaining he was not expecting Brantley news until tomorrow in Baltimore and that Michael had a doctor's visit today after undergoing scans on his shoulder.
July 22: just after the noon hour, an article by Hoynsie was published on cleveland.com with a blurb about Michael. it brought to light that he underwent two days of testing on his shoulder, having had another MRI on Thursday [July 21] before meeting with the Indians head physician, Dr. Mark Shickendantz.
that afternoon, Francona was a guest on Mike Trivisonno's WTAM 1100 radio show. (the audio clip can be found here.) right before 5 o'clock, the TheTrivShow twitter account tweeted the latest Michael news: he had a small procedure to clear out some scar tissue, but the shoulder looked good, and he'll get back at it in a few days. someone then inquired whether Michael would resume his rehab assignment or need to start over with batting practice, and TheTrivShow notified them that a trainer would meet with reporters later with more info to come.
shortly after that, the Indians' writers took control of the updates. Hoynsie tweeted Michael underwent an outpatient procedure to remove scar tissue from the biceps tendon and he will resume baseball activities next week.
Grove was the first one to tweet the official statement from the Indians, which read: Michael's imaging revealed no structural compromise to his right shoulder. today he underwent a diagnostic ultrasound and a short procedure (needle aponeurotomy) to break up scar tissue located in the front of his shoulder (outside of his shoulder joint) along the biceps tendon. Michael will rest this weekend and is scheduled to resume baseball activities early next week. while encouraged with this recent development, there remains no timetable for his return.
later, T.J. Zuppe suggested on twitter that they'll probably ramp Michael back up through a progression. moreover, Bastian issued a correction tweet disclosing Michael had a "hydrodissection" performed on him to break up the scar tissue.
a little bit before the Indians' 7:05 pm game, an article focusing on Michael was posted on indians.com with Ben Standig credited as the author. Dr. Jason Genin performed the hydrodissection, where a needle was used with local anesthetic to hopefully break up the scar tissue on the biceps area. Indians head athletic trainer James Quinlan indicated they're "trying to be cautiously optimistic about it. early next week, get back to swinging and see how it feels."
Francona's reaction resembled a sense of relief. "the fear is when you get tested that extensively, you'll find something on almost anybody. the fact that they really didn't is great news. now it's just going to be a matter of days before he starts again. i know he's frustrated. this last little [stretch] has been hard to get through, but we're hopeful he'll be back and raring to go pretty soon."
Hoynsie's cleveland.com article provided more, explicitly illustrating the timeline of Michael's tests and procedure. his enhanced MRI with the fluid injection occurred on July 20, while the diagnostic MRI and hydrodissection took place on July 21. the second MRI further established that Michael was still dealing with right biceps tendinitis.
besides that, the article included a video of Quinlan shedding some light on the situation. "it feels like that (probably) was a pain producer for him," Quinlan believed. "it felt significantly better after that. a couple of more days and he can get back into a swinging program. the procedure is not season ending. it's similar, if you've heard about acupuncture when you go in with a dry needle, but this is more specific because you use ultrasound. you target the area, break it up and get back out there within a couple of days. the enhanced MRI, where you put fluid into the shoulder joint, the doctors were encouraged by what they found with the labrum. it still looks good, there's nothing new there.
"the shoulder joint itself, it's a big deal with swinging the bat and they can be tricky. they can get strong, but you don't know how they will respond to game activity. it has been longer than we anticipated. he's managed his frustrations well by working hard, but shoulders are complicated and you don't know how they will respond once you get out there. it's swinging, the high intensity swing, and doing that repeatedly to get ready for game activity. that's where he kind of gets hung up. he feels discomfort and once you feel discomfort, that affects your swing."
MY THOUGHTS: Michael's very lucky this was only a "procedure" and not a formal surgery because i know that having surgery to remove scar tissue usually just results in the formation of more scar tissue. so i truly hope this hydrodissection takes care of the problem. fingers crossed.
July 23: per a tweet from Bastian, the Indians will convene with Michael on Monday [July 25]. the hope is he can return to high-intensity swings in the cage; he doesn't have to start from scratch. later in the evening before the Indians game, Bastian wrote in his indians.com article that Michael will convene with the medical staff on Monday OR Tuesday [July 26].
July 25: there was no official news from the Indians on their off day, though i can testify that i saw Michael's truck in the players parking lot around 2 pm when we were driving around the ballpark to go to the Indians Team Shop. i presumed he was there doing some type of rehab work.
July 26: Hoynsie tweeted in the afternoon that Michael would be talking to reporters at 4:05 pm.
here's a photo of the media madhouse in front of Michael's locker:
|photo courtesy of @Indians on twitter|
Grove was there and, as i've come to expect, he took video of the interview and posted it with his article on scout.com.
how is he feeling? "i'm doing well," Michael smiled wide.
how'd this latest procedure go and has he felt much relief from it? "the latest procedure went well. it was pretty quick and easy. i have felt relief from it and, you know, the last couple days, a couple good days of hitting the last two days and all went well so far."
it is tough to put a timetable on something like this? "it's very tough, especially when you have a couple setbacks and you think you have figured it out and you kind of get a little different twist, so i'm gonna continue to keep working hard and keep pushing to get back and taking the necessary steps that i need to take."
is he discouraged? if not, how does he keep from being discouraged? "it's frustrating. i mean, i want to be out there with these teammates and this coaching staff and contribute in a positive way. the guys are doing a great job, i just want to be a part of it. but at the same time, i gotta be healthy. i won't come back 50% or 75%. i owe it to these guys and this great organization to be healthy when i come back and contribute in a positive way."
has he been able to swing the bat faster coming back from this procedure than the cortisone shot? "i have. i've hit the last two days, all in the cage but off a pitching machine as well already, and just trying to ramp back up activities and see how it all feels and see how i recover each and every day."
what was his mindset going into the MRI and what was it when he finally got the results and what was gonna have to happen? "mindset's the same every day: get better each and every day. i mean, there's no, there's nothing i can control. i just want to know the results and how i can get better from it. i feel like we had a good looking MRI and everything looked well and i'm excited about that news."
any regret that he may have pushed things too hard at times? "no, i listened to my body. i felt good. i said the last time i was feeling great. some things come up, it's very frustrating at times but at the same time, you gotta take what the cards give you. it's a setback, yes, but it's only gonna make me stronger as a baseball player and stronger as a person and just being a better teammate from the dugout and looking in."
where is the pain? what is the last hurdle he's got to clear? "recovery. recovery's always my biggest key. playing back-to-back days, recovery, recovery, recovery. it's one of the most important things. obviously to play a grueling schedule like we have, we have to recover the next day and be healthy enough and ready to play."
and it's the recovery with his swing? that's where it is? "yeah. yes it is."
how confident is he that he can make an impact this year still? "very confident. i know the players, the staff, upper management, they all believe in me that i can come back and contribute in a positive way and i do as well. i'm taking every necessary step, you know behind closed doors, the stuff that people don't see--tracking balls, getting my mechanics down, doing any drills i can that are non-taxing to make sure that my body's ready to go once i come back."
Grove additionally tweeted that Michael surmised there's no timetable or deadline for his return and he will continue to work on coming back as soon as possible.
later, reporters met with Francona to discuss Michael as well. via Bastian, Tito insisted the Indians aren't close to thinking Michael needs to be shut down; as long as he can play rehab games, there's a chance. Bastian also tweeted something i've heard from Francona since the spring: "if you had Brantley back where he's playing two out of three, that's better than no out of three."
according to Zack Meisel, Tito further pointed out, "he wants desperately to play--we know that. there's been a couple times he's come in and almost, like, apologized. and i'm just real quick to tell him, 'you don't need to do that.' what we ask our guys is try hard, be a good citizen. he's off the charts in those areas. his shoulder just hurts. that's not his fault. he's trying his damnedest, man."
Grove had more from the skipper in his scout.com article. "the way he plays left field, that's what he's been like in the training room. believe me, when he can play, he will."
and while there is no deadline for Michael to come back, if he's not playing rehab games by September, his return might no longer be possible. "i think as long as we have some games left where he can [go on a rehab assignment]," Francona stated. "that would be tough if you get into September and there's nowhere for him to see live pitching, yeah, that's a lot to ask. but, we're still a pretty good ways from that."
July 29: in the afternoon, Bastian tweeted that Francona communicated Michael continued to hit off a pitching machine today to better replicate game speed and he might have more of an update on Saturday [July 30]. then in the evening, Hoynsie's cleveland.com article added that team doctors will examine Michael on Saturday to see how he's progressing from last week's procedure to break up the scar tissue along his right biceps tendon.
July 30: during the Indians game, when WTAM 1100 radio broadcaster Jim Rosenhaus gave the Elk & Elk injury report, he informed listeners that Michael had a light day today. and Bastian's article on indians.com noted that he continues to take batting practice off a pitching machine to better simulate game speed. Tito contended there's still no firm timetable for when he will resume his minor league rehab assignment.
July 31: Francona told media members during his presser about the trade for Andrew Miller on indians.com that Michael had a down day, but he'll ramp up again tomorrow and he's doing okay.
Rosey's Elk & Elk injury report furthermore made it known that it was a slower day today for Michael and Francona expects him to get back in the cage tomorrow and increase his activity. he elaborated everything's going well and reiterated Michael's doing okay.
Team Batting Title Competition
doesn't seem as though Michael is ever going to get into this competition, does it?
this month the Indians had another new leader, as rookie Tyler Naquin had the highest batting average (.348) out of all the qualifiers on the team. yes, Terry Francona certainly picks and chooses Naquin's spots, but this kid has been something else, coming up big in many high pressure situations. i think we might have ourselves a ROY...
(btw, Francisco Lindor had the highest BA in April and May, while Rajai Davis had the highest BA in June.)
Versus AL Central Division Teams
when the Indians played the Detroit Tigers, Michael was on the 60-Day DL with right biceps tendinitis and had just started taking batting practice on the field. he missed all 3 games in the July series.
when the Indians played the Minnesota Twins, Michael was still on the 60-Day DL with right biceps tendinitis/out on a minor league rehab assignment with the Akron RubberDucks. he missed all 3 games of the July series.
when the Indians played the Kansas City Royals, Michael was still on the 60-Day DL with right biceps tendinitis and went for an MRI after his minor league rehab assignment had just been put on hold due to him feeling right shoulder discomfort in the follow-through of his swing. he missed all 3 games in the July series.
the Indians did not face the Chicago White Sox in July.
Michael did not play any scheduled games against the National League in July, and therefore did not register a batting average in Interleague Play this month.
when the Indians played the Washington Nationals at Progressive Field, Michael was still on the 60-Day DL with right biceps tendinitis but had just resumed swinging in the indoor cage after a hydrodissection procedure and three-day shutdown period. he missed both games against this team in July.
July Team Leads, Career Highs, & League Rankings
due to the fact that Michael did not play any Major League games this month, he did not have any team leads, career highs, or league rankings in July.
in order to clear a roster spot for Abraham Almonte upon his return from the restricted list (due to his 80-Game PED suspension), Michael was transferred to the 60-Day DL on July 3. it was strictly a paper move and didn't change anything in regards to Michael's progress. his DL date was still retroactive to May 9 and his new eligibility was July 9, though no one expected him to be activated yet at that point. i wrote a blog with more details here.
like last month, Michael again had a significant effect on a player in an important part of a game. the Indians were playing the Washington Nationals at home on July 26. they were down, 6-4, in the bottom of the 9th inning when Jose Ramirez led it off against right-hander Jonathan Papelbon and drew a walk. Terry Francona then decided to pinch hit Tyler Naquin in place of Juan Uribe. after a 1-2 count, Naquin hit a line drive double to deep left-center field, scoring Ramirez and cutting the Nats' lead down to 1. (the Indians eventually won the game, 7-6, later in the inning in walk-off style.)
so where's the Michael influence here? after the game, Naquin gave credit to Michael for helping him prepare versus Papelbon via a tweet from T.J. Zuppe. while he wouldn't expose the exact exchange, Naquin did share in an article on indians.com by Shane Jackson that he spoke with Michael before facing Papelbon. "he's always watching pitches. he's always watching everything. it might look like he's staring off into space, but really he's not. he's got his eye on something at all times."
it's unfortunate (yet understandable) that Michael doesn't travel with the team on the road. but when the Indians are at home, they certainly possess the extra advantage of having Michael around as another set of eyes in the dugout doling out invaluable advice. be that as it may, i think everyone will be very happy when Michael gets back to his regular role as a ballplayer who PLAYS lol
likewise, during the Indians game versus the Oakland Athletics on July 29, radio announcer Jim Rosenhaus briefed WTAM 1100 listeners on a story about how Michael tries to have an impact on the team despite not playing. Rosey mentioned that Naquin said Michael has been a mentor to him all season. even on Opening Day when Naquin didn't start in the game, Michael told him to be ready to pinch hit. the two have built a good relationship ever since.
this photo of Michael sitting outside the top step of the dugout next to Tito and keeping watch during the game on July 31 versus the Athletics is the ultimate exhibit of what Naquin was referring to earlier in the week:
|photo courtesy of Chuck Crow via The Plain Dealer|
normally this is where i break down the numbers, but... sigh.
(note: i will NOT be breaking down Michael's rehab game numbers here. that will be posted in a future blog either when he comes off the DL or when his rehab is officially done, whichever comes first.)
July batting average: N/A
Michael played in 0 (of 24) games in July.
he missed 2 games while he was still on the 15-Day DL with right biceps tendinitis.
he missed 13 games while he was on the 60-Day DL with right biceps tendinitis.
he missed 3 games while he was still on the 60-Day DL with right biceps tendinitis/out on a minor league rehab assignment.
he missed 3 games while he was still on the 60-Day DL with right biceps tendinitis after his rehab assignment was put on hold due to right shoulder discomfort in the follow-through of his swing.
he missed 3 games while he was still on the 60-Day DL with right biceps tendinitis after he underwent a hydrodissection procedure to remove scar tissue from his right biceps tendon and was shut down.
now here are my game-by-game numbers and notes.
Game /79, July 1: still on DL.
Game /80, July 2: still on DL.
Game /81, July 3: still on DL.
Game /82, July 4: still on DL.
Game /83, July 5: still on DL.
Game /84, July 6: still on DL.
Game /85, July 7: still on DL.
Game /86, July 8: still on DL.
Game /87, July 9: still on DL.
Game /88, July 10: still on DL.
July 11-14: MLB All Star Break.
**Michael began his minor league rehab assignment during the MLB All Star Break. when the Indians resumed play, i included what number game they played that Michael missed. also, when calculating his AVG, the first one is his total BA for the year with whichever minor league team he was playing with (including April if applicable), and the second is his cumulative rehab BA (April + July) through that point.**
Minor League Rehab Game 1, July 11: 1-2, walk (first plate appearance), single. AVG: .500/.261
^^he played with the Scrappers in Short-Season Single A Mahoning Valley.^^
July 12: still on DL, scheduled off day.
Minor League Rehab Game 2, July 13: 2-3, double (first at bat), single. AVG: .667/.308
^^he played with the Captains in Single A Lake County.^^
July 14: still on DL, scheduled off day.
Minor League Rehab Game 3 & Game /89, July 15: 0-4. AVG: .250/.267
^^he played with the RubberDucks in Double A Akron.^^
Game /90, July 16: still on DL, late scratch, scheduled off day.
Minor League Rehab Game 4 & Game /91, July 17: 0-3, reached on fielder's choice (first at bat), reached on fielding error, run. AVG: .211/.242
^^he played with the RubberDucks in Double A Akron.^^
Game /92, July 18: still on DL, scheduled off day.
Game /93, July 19: still on DL, rehab now on hold due to discomfort in his follow-through.
Game /94, July 20: still on DL, shut down.
Game /95, July 22: still on DL, shut down.
Game /96, July 23: still on DL, shut down.
Game /97, July 24: still on DL, shut down.
Game /98, July 26: still on DL.
Game /99, July 27: still on DL.
Game /100, July 29: still on DL.
Game /101, July 30: still on DL.
Game /102, July 31: still on DL.
so far in 2016, Michael has 43 plate appearances and 39 at bats in 11 games (89.1 innings). in total, he has 9 hits, 2 extra base hits, 7 singles, 2 doubles, 7 RBI, 1 sac fly, 5 runs, 3 walks, 1 intentional walk, 1 stolen base (3rd), 1 GIDP, 6 strikeouts (3 swinging, 3 looking), 1 first at bat hit, 11 total bases, 14 left on base, 18 putouts, and 1 assist.
2016 season batting average: .231 (9-39)
for more about Michael's overall season so far, you can refer to my Brantley's 2016 #s Through July blog.
remember, the best way to get daily news and updates about Michael is to follow me on twitter @clevelandgirl23. and if you'd like to receive email notifications when i publish new blogs, you can join my subscription list over on the right side of the blog.