Friday, February 24, 2017

Brantley's February 2017 Hitting Progressions (Pre-Spring Games)

Indians spring training games begin tomorrow! finally, the boys are back in action! well, all except one. sadly, Michael Brantley is not ready to play in spring games yet because the team is being extra careful with him and taking his rehab slowly. so as we wait for Michael to get the all clear, i thought i'd post an updates blog with details about his February hitting progressions--from tee work to batting practice!--prior to Cactus League games. there are a lot of photos of Michael in here, too!👍

and, in an unprecedented twist, FIVE different baseball writers published false information regarding Michael this month. not on purpose, of course, but it's quite astonishing that so many people would make mistakes within a similar time period and in relation to the same player. for three of these guys especially, that's a rarity because they are typically some of my most credible sources when it comes to all things Tribe. nevertheless, i called attention to those faux pas, as you would expect, and then corrected them, as you will soon discover.

before i get started though, if you'd like to see any of the updates between Michael's biceps tenodesis surgery on August 15, 2016, and Tribe Fest on January 28, 2017, check out
these blogs:
Brantley To Have Season-Ending Right Shoulder Surgery
Brantley Undergoes Biceps Tenodesis, Recovery Will Take 4 Months
What Is Biceps Tenodesis?
Brantley's August 2016 Post-Surgery Interview
Brantley's September 2016 Sling Updates
Brantley's 2016 Postseason October Rehab Updates
Brantley News & Updates from November & December 2016
Brantley's January 2017 Hitting Progressions + Other News & Pics

now let's get to the new stuff!

February 7: in the first bit of Michael news since January 28, T.J. Zuppe tweeted that, via a conference call, Indians President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti stated Michael has been in Goodyear since the end of Tribe Fest. a tweet from Jordan Bastian disclosed that Michael's at the "end stages" of the tee work stage in his hitting progression and has increased the volume and intensity of his swings. and an excerpt in Paul Hoynes' article on specified Michael will next progress to soft toss and batting practice.

February 13: this was the day after pitchers and catchers were scheduled to report to spring training, but the majority of Indians players were already in Goodyear. Bastian took a short video of Michael there playing catch with Jason Kipnis in the morning and put it on his twitter.

February 14: Bastian tweeted Michael is still in the tee stage of his hitting progression and the team is remaining conservative with his schedule, according to Terry Francona.

here's a photo of Michael playing catch:

photo courtesy of @BurningRiverBB on twitter

Michael also went through warm ups and stretched with the other players on the field. in the video on Burning River Baseball's youtube channel, he is second from the left (next to Kipnis).

then, as the hitters got ready to take batting practice at the complex in the morning, Michael grabbed his bat and headed to the indoor cage to continue with his tee work, per Bastian's article.

"we're trying like crazy to not go too fast," Tito divulged. "we don't want to put him in a position that's unrealistic. it's a little bit hard, because last year the only time he really started to feel it was when he got into a game. so i think we need to reserve some enthusiasm, not because we don't feel [enthusiastic], because we want him back desperately, but just in fairness to him. we'll allow him to come back on his own program, on the trainers' timeline, so he has a chance to not just come back, but to stay back."

MY THOUGHTS: he started hitting off a tee around January 18, so this has been an awfully long time for just tee work. and while i understand that a cautious approach is probably the smart move, it still seems odd to me that he's now almost no further ahead this offseason than he was last offseason, even after having his surgery THREE months earlier and being given a shorter recovery period (four-to-five months). when he gave his interview on January 27, he told reporters that he was ahead of where he was a year ago. well, he can't be by much anymore, but now that may not be the main focus. the medical staff must have confidence that Michael can avoid follow-through discomfort this way by taking their time with his progressions.

by comparison, Michael's labral tear surgery occurred on November 9, 2015, and had a six-month recovery timetable. on February 20, 2016, he began hitting off a tee. then he started soft toss on February 29, took batting practice on March 6, and played in his first (minor league) spring game on March 17. in retrospect, that all sounds way too fast, so now they're apparently compensating by trying to go at a much slower rate. hope it works.

February 15: Nick Camino tweeted Francona said Michael is progressing well, but will not be ready by the Cactus League exhibition opener [February 25]. i think that was obvious based on yesterday's news, but now it's official. Hoynsie elaborated with a tweet that Michael won't be ready for spring games for "a while." again, that's not really shocking news.

here's a photo of Michael "strolling" out of the [indoor] cages:

photo courtesy of @CAwesomeheimer on twitter

Hoynsie's article on had more from Francona about Michael not playing in any Cactus League games in the immediate future. "i would anticipate he'd probably be later. there are going to be some guys (pitchers) who are held back. i would think he'd be a little bit later. over the normal course of the way his schedule is, i would be surprised, i don't think that's even on the table [playing in early spring games]."

and so he definitely won't be playing against the Cincinnati Reds on February 25. "i don't think so," Tito asserted. "that's too quick. not having him for a full year (last season), i want to do it right. he deserves to do it right."

in Bastian's article on, Francona maintained that Michael will not return to the lineup until he's deemed fully ready. "he's worked so hard and to have him back will be so nice. it's just, we're going to do it right, so he can have his best chance to be successful. he's following the protocols that the medical people put in place. we just need to be patient. we need to allow him to try to get to the point where he can not only come back, but stay back. ...all you can do is, you ask him to do what he's supposed to do, and he's been like the model patient. so, if it can be done, he's going to get it done."

"we all see how hard he's working," Tito continued in Jerry Crasnick's article. "i think we're just going to go off of him. as he gets things accomplished with the proper amount of intensity, he'll move on to something else. i think that's the timetable we need to abide by.

"this kid has worked his ass off."

moreover, MLB Network began their Top 100 Players Right Now countdown series at night, and Michael was ranked 74th on their list. additional information about that can be found in my separate blog post here.

February 16: two articles appeared on with differing perspectives pertaining to Michael's future in the form of best-case, worst-case complementary pieces. the article from Zack Meisel pontificated that should Michael again be unable to return from his surgery, then his career may never be the same, and the one from Hoynsie encompassed only a slightly more positive outlook on Michael's anticipated comeback. the columns are filled with speculation and what ifs and doomsday thoughts, so i don't feel much of a need to comment on them EXCEPT to point out that BOTH contain errors. Meisel claimed Michael did not partake in the 2016 ALDS win celebration over the Boston Red Sox while i have PROOF from pictures that he did, and Hoynsie has an incorrect date of Michael's initial shoulder surgery in 2015.👀

what's more, Hoynsie's article casually informed readers that Michael had progressed from tee work to soft toss. (it is unusual though that no other Indians correspondents suggested news anywhere close to that. another Hoynsie error?😕) "Michael has been at this for 17 months," Antonetti remarked. "his shoulder feels strong and stable. now it's just a question of how it handles the increase in volume and intensity."

February 17: here's a photo that originated on Kipnis' instagram of he and Michael on one of the practice fields wearing muscle shirts. if you look hard enough, you can see a few surgery scars on Michael's right shoulder...

photo cropped courtesy of @Indians on twitter

Hoynsie's evening article on included a snippet explaining that Francona and Antonetti met with all the position players earlier in the day. Michael was first on the schedule and standing outside Tito's office at 7 am. Kip's meeting was next at 7:10 am.

February 18: here are some photos of Michael participating in the position players' endurance test, otherwise known as the "Warrior Dash":

photo courtesy of Chuck Crow via The Plain Dealer
 photo courtesy of @Indians on twitter

here's Michael running alongside Lonnie Chisenhall, who's rocking a Dr. Smooth t-shirt, and Greg Allen, this year's Warrior winner:

photo courtesy of Chuck Crow via The Plain Dealer
photo courtesy of @MLBastian on twitter

and here are other various photos of Michael:

photo courtesy of @MLBastian on twitter
photo courtesy of Chuck Crow via The Plain Dealer

later, Bastian either confirmed Hoynsie's under-the-radar breaking news from February 16, or broke the legitimate news himself by tweeting that Francona announced Michael advanced to the soft-toss stage of his hitting program. and when someone asked how that differed from hitting off a tee, Bastian replied that the ball isn't stationary, soft toss introduces variance in his swing reactions.

Bastian also noted that Michael is still ahead of his pace from last year, as he didn't start soft toss in 2016 until March 2. (um, that's not what you yourself reported last year, JB lol)

then in Bastian's article on, he provided some quotes from Francona. "he's doing really well. i just want to be fair to him. i was talking to him again today. we just want to be as fair as we can to him. this kid has done everything, and he is pushing. [we don't want him] putting a timetable on it and things like that."

MY THOUGHTS: in terms of the dates that Michael has been advancing to each specific stage of his progression, Bastian is correct about him being "ahead." conversely, in terms of the length that Michael has performed each stage, Bastian is wrong because Michael's behind.

and i must acknowledge that there have been some inaccurate dates floating around about Michael's rehab advancements from last year, so let me make them clear. based on the information that was revealed to the public, Michael's hitting progressions from 2016 and thus far in 2017 read like this:

DRY SWINGS: approximately February 15, 2016 vs. late December 2016
HITTING OFF A TEE: February 20, 2016 vs. approximately January 18, 2017
SOFT TOSS: February 29, 2016 vs. February 16 or 18, 2017
BATTING PRACTICE in the INDOOR CAGE: March 6, 2016 vs. N/A
BATTING PRACTICE on the FIELD: March 11, 2016 vs. N/A
PLAYING IN GAMES: March 17, 2016 vs. N/A

(if you need verification that i'm right, skim back through the Brantley's February 2016 Shoulder Updates & Hitting Program News blog & Brantley's March 2016 Hitting Progressions blog.)

look at how quickly Michael went through his hitting progressions last year, and then look at when they've been allowing him to advance this time. it's deducible that they went way too fast in 2016, so now in 2017, they're making amends and doing the opposite.

February 19: here's a photo of Michael talking with Grady Sizemore, who's in camp with the Tribe as a special assistant, during practice:

photo courtesy of Chuck Crow via The Plain Dealer

and here's Michael signing autographs for fans:

photo courtesy of Chuck Crow via The Plain Dealer

February 20: Bastian tweeted that Michael stood in versus Joe Colon in live BP. no swings, just tracking. a short video of the event was posted on the youtube channel.

photo courtesy of Chuck Crow via The Plain Dealer
photo courtesy of Dan Mendlik via TribeVibe
photo courtesy of @MLBastian on twitter

and here are some photos of Michael fielding ground balls:

photos courtesy of Chuck Crow via The Plain Dealer

and shagging fly balls:

photo courtesy of Dan Mendlik via TribeVibe

"i know Brantley feels good," Francona pronounced in Chris Assenheimer's article on "every time he feels good, i'd much rather him say that than i don't feel good. he was the heart and soul of our (team). he was third in the MVP voting (in 2014). i know he does it quietly, but he had turned himself into one of the best players in the game."

February 21: here are some photos of Michael during the day's practice:

photo courtesy of @MLBastian on twitter
photo courtesy of Dan Mendlik via TribeVibe

after practice, Michael met with the media. in Meisel's article on, an abbreviated video of his session was embedded. i've transcribed his responses to their questions (which could not be heard in the vid, but you can still understand what he's referring to, for the most part). in addition, i pulled some other quotes from the article that were not in the video and quotes from a short video on

"things are going well. obviously i'm on a progression, but i like where i'm at and things are going on the right, starting on the right foot so far."

"do i have a goal? play as many games as i can. make sure i'm out there healthy and being with my teammates for just as long as the season."

Opening Day? "i hope so, but i'm on a week-to-week basis right now. i don't want to look too far ahead. every Monday's a new week. i keep progressing and everything's going well so far." 

"i wouldn't be standing here in front of you if we didn't have a good game plan going forward. i'm excited with where i'm at. i know i said it last year. i'm stronger than i was last year. a lot of things are looking positive and uh, it's a week-to-week basis, but things are going on the right foot so far."

"i learned a lot about myself. you have to be mentally tough. you're going to have good days and bad days, but just stick to the course, stick to the plan, don't try to do too much too early, and it'll all come together in the end."

"that was more last year than this year, trying to figure out why and 'what could i do more? what could i do less?' and just trying to figure it all out, but i've been doing very well so far. i'm very excited to be in this locker room healthy, getting to do most of all the stuff that everybody else gets to do and i'll be right around the corner, hopefully hitting BP and, you know, just, we'll just put this in the past."

" is the final, the final process. but yeah it feels different. absolutely. it's a long ways away, when i say a year ago, what do you feel like a year ago? it's a long time. but i feel better. i feel stronger. i had more time this time rehabbing and building strength in my shoulder and just getting my body ready to go for spring and i like where i'm at."

"i believe so, but at the same time, as long as that new normal, no pain's coming with it. i can wake up every day and keep playing and you kind of accept it. the biggest thing is making sure that you're healthy enough to help the team and not hurt the team. i've always said that before. i'm not going to go out there not healthy enough to help this team. i don't think it's... these guys work too hard in this locker room for me to not be healthy and be out there with them." (parts of this came from Assenheimer's article on 

"...i just look forward to being back with them with a smile on my face, playing with them, and getting through this season and hopefully going to the postseason as well."

Michael similarly expressed the hope of finding his name in the Opening Day lineup on April 3 in Meisel's article.

Kipnis, who drove to Cleveland in December and spent a week with his teammate, shared, "i knew this offseason was going to be a long one [for him.] you see the work he puts in every day. he is in there every single damn day. you knew he would be. i almost want to say he's going to come out of it, too. knock on wood. sometimes injuries get the best of people and there's nothing you can do about it. the work he's put in, he'll get back there. he's not taking 'no' for an answer."

Tom Withers' article on had supplementary assessments from Kip concerning Michael missing out on playing in last year's postseason. "you know he wanted to be out there with everyone. he was very mature with putting that to the side. he was a good teammate, helping other people."

in other news, Withers' post contained faulty information, as has been a common theme among scribes this month. he alleged the Indians shut Michael down on August 3, 2016, before his August 15 surgery, when in fact, Michael hit live off Joe Colon on August 3. (smh what is with these writers?! get the kinks out before the real games start please.😜)

from Bastian's article on, Michael is optimistic that the Indians' medical team and his doctors finally got to the root of the problem. since he's been in camp, Michael has taken part in outfield drills and everything else that does not require hitting a ball with maximum effort.

"his challenge right now is a little bit different than some of these other guys," Francona admitted. "they're ramping up for the season. he's got a couple hurdles before he does that. but, he's attacking it just like he attacks everything else."

"he's an amazing kid," Tito went on in Withers' article. "we're pulling for him because of our team and we're pulling for him because we care about him. he's one of the classiest kids you'll ever meet."

February 22: Bastian posted a short video to twitter of Michael tracking pitches while standing in for live BP against Carlos Carrasco. Assenheimer mentioned how Michael joked that he was gonna swing, but he didn't.

here are some photos of Michael during practice:

photo courtesy of @twithersAP on twitter
photo courtesy of @MLBastian on twitter
photo courtesy of Dan Mendlik via TribeVibe
photo courtesy of Chuck Crow via The Plain Dealer
photo courtesy of @NickCaminoWTAM on twitter

a short video was later uploaded on of Michael sitting in front of and speaking to reporters.

"spring's coming great. shoulder's heading in the right direction. it's a process, but i look forward to taking the right steps to getting back on the field with my teammates."

"there's no set date. each week, hopefully, there's a little more i get to kinda add on to what i did last week and it's all about how i feel. as long as i'm rebounding well and feeling well when i wake up in the morning, i'm gonna keep pushing myself."

February 23: Michael tracked pitches again during live BP, this time against Dan Otero. you can see a little bit of that in Hayden Grove's facebook live video, which was archived in a post, around the 9:00 minute mark. then at about 12:30 in, Chiz and Michael are waiting outside the batting cage, and it appears as though Chiz tells Michael he's got something in his nose lol

and now something not so funny. Jon Heyman wrote an article for insisting that "people familiar with [Michael's] case," aka "sources," say there's reason for real concern, and optimism that Michael will be ready for Opening Day has waned a tad.

MY THOUGHTS: more postulating and assuming the worst simply because there's no definitive clarification of when Michael will be back or how he will perform once he is back. i'm tired of this. but what really gets me is the second paragraph of the article. Heyman erroneously proclaimed that "the tendon that was ripped away from the shoulder bone has necessitated two extensive operations (the first one didn't take)." that's not even close to reality. Michael's initial surgery was for a labral tear and did not involve any reconstruction of the biceps tendon. not only that, but the November 2015 surgery did indeed take because the doctors reaffirmed that the labral repair was still intact when they opened up Michael's shoulder again to do the second surgery. (and anyone who is familiar with my posts and has been reading my blogs all along already knows this.)

keep in mind, this isn't the first time that Heyman's compiled an article about Michael with a negative "sources believe his injury is more serious" type lead. he's been singing that song since September 2016. i recommend people pay no mind to this guy because his reputation has taken a major hit over the last year as far as reliable content goes. he went from being a prestigious journalist to working for a literal "rag." that's my opinion and i'm sticking to it.

be that as it may, the most authentic part of his article is where Indians GM Mike Chernoff (who was misidentified by Heyman once as "Charnoff," i might add), was quoted. "he's hit every bench mark. but the biggest check point is going to be when he faces live pitching in games and how he bounces back. we're definitely optimistic. but we're definitely keeping our fingers crossed after what he's been through--not that there's anything to suggest anything's off track." this is nothing that hasn't previously been publicized so rest assured, there's no reason for any new worries.

February 24: early in the morning, the Indians were photographed for their annual Photo Day. here's a peculiar looking shot of Michael:

photo courtesy of Mark J. Rebilas via USA Today Sports

succeeding that and other media obligations, it was time for practice. that's when Bastian broke the exciting news that Michael is hitting normal BP pitching in the indoor cage and moved up from his soft-toss program! Grove observed that he took some serious cuts and his swing looked smooth. Grove additionally offered that the tosses were overhand and it was a significant step forward. press members are not permitted to record video inside the complex; however, Withers did provide a short twitter video of Michael swinging in the indoor cage from the outside.

it was unveiled in Meisel's article that Michael has been taking 120 swings per day. today, he completed a round of soft toss before a coach switched to overhand throws, allowing him to take part in a regular session of batting practice.

Indians hitting coach Ty Van Burkleo declared, "Dr. Smooth is back. he looks good, and the ball's coming off his bat nicely. if you didn't know he was rehabbing, you'd think he was just getting ready for the day."

"i don't think he could do anything differently, the way he went through it," Van Burkleo expounded in Withers' article on "he's worked his butt off from the beginning to get where he is now. we just hope there are no setbacks. right now, he's feeling real good and there are not any issues. hopefully, it stays that way."

an Indians athletic trainer, several coaches, and medical director Lonnie Soloff watched Michael achieve this feat and spray balls to the back of the black netting, as was incorporated in Withers' article and Bastian's article. but even with this progression, Francona reiterated that there is still no firm timetable for Michael to return to games.

on the contrary, Tito did make it known, via an article on by Assenheimer, that Michael will start hitting on the field at some point next week. "i just think the trainers feel like in the cage the intensity may be a little less. it's probably negligible, but it's still making him do steps. i think repetition's important, also intensity, but by all accounts, including his, which is the most important, he's doing great."

here's a photo of Michael after he finished hitting in the cage:

photo courtesy of @H_Grove on twitter

once Michael's cage work was done, he proceeded to practice in the outfield. Grove vouched that Michael has continually taken reps in the outfield with no problems throwing or doing defensive drills at 100%. you can see two short twitter videos of Michael in the outfield throwing to the infield and cutoff men here and here, courtesy of Grove.

MY THOUGHTS: as i wrote earlier in this blog, last year Michael began soft toss on February 29 and advanced to indoor cage BP work in less than a week on March 6. and it looks like he's on the same pace this year because he only recently started soft toss on February 16 or 18. evidently, the soft toss phase of rehab does not require much repetition. the swiftness with which that part of the program reached its conclusion does have me a little apprehensive because i thought they were being more guarded this year, but surely those trainers know better than i do. and truthfully, i'm just happy to be able to end this progressions blog with positive news!😀

so here we are, the night before spring games commence. despite Michael saying back on January 27 that he hoped he would be "in line" with where his teammates were once he got to spring training, the Indians' precaution has made that impossible. and as a result, he will not be playing in games yet. still, he's doing everything that the medical staff and trainers have requested of him and he's feeling good, but they're not letting him progress too fast. all Michael can do is continue to take things one step at a time, one day at a time, and eventually we'll see him on the field again.

now i'm basically in the same spot as i was a year ago, when Michael was rehabbing while the Tribe was playing their spring training games and i was documenting his daily updates and progression. this year, though, i'm changing things up a bit. i want to put all his rehab information during the Cactus League schedule together in one spot. so because spring games start in February, i'm not doing a full February updates blog and a separate March updates blog. therefore, the rest of his rehab news from this month will be combined with the news from next month in my upcoming Brantley's Cactus League Rehab blog. then once Michael finally plays in games, depending on how many games he plays, i'll probably post a second blog dissecting his overall spring numbers. that's my tentative plan, anyway.

in the meantime, if you want immediate updates, be sure you're following me on twitter @clevelandgirl23. and if you'd like to join my subscription list, you can enter your email address in the box underneath the Blog Archive sidebar on the right side of the page to receive notifications every time i post a new blog.

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