Thursday, October 19, 2017

Brantley Undergoes Right Ankle Surgery, Recovery Will Take 4-5 Months

i am so sorry to have to report this to my Brantley fans, but today, the Indians announced in a Press Release that Michael Brantley had surgery on his right ankle yesterday, on Wednesday, October 18, in Charlotte, North Carolina. Dr. Robert Anderson performed an arthroscopic surgery to stabilize ligaments in the joint. Michael will require four to five months to recover, and then he can resume full baseball activity.😟😭

photo cropped off

four months takes us to February 18, 2018, which Jordan Bastian estimated
in his article to be shortly after the expected Spring Training report dates, and five months is March 18. the Indians open up the 2018 season on March 29.😨

Michael fought a right ankle sprain on and off for most of the season. it all began on May 7 in the top of the 3rd inning, when he awkwardly stepped on 1st base while trying to beat out a ground ball in the game against the Kansas City Royals. he manned left field in the bottom of the 3rd inning, but was subbed out of the game defensively for the bottom of the 4th inning. later it was revealed that he'd left with a right ankle sprain. he never went on the disabled list and only missed three games between May 8-10.

Michael did, however, go on the 10-Day DL on June 19, the day he was supposed to come off the Paternity List. it wasn't known to the public, but apparently Michael had injured his ankle again in an early June series against the Royals, yet played with the ongoing ankle soreness. once Michael left the team to be with his wife and their newborn, the Indians found it an easy call to make to put him on the DL and give his ankle a little more time to heal. between his return on May 12 and his going on paternity leave, he played 28 games and bat .308 with nine doubles, 11 RBI, nine runs, 12 walks, four stolen bases, and four outfield assists. so you can see how no one suspected that anything was wrong. Michael was activated from the 10-Day DL on June 26. for all the updates from June 21-26, read my Brantley Activated from 10-Day DL (w/ Right Ankle Updates) blog.

if that wasn't enough, Michael suffered another injury to his right ankle on August 8 during the game versus the Colorado Rockies. he did it in the top of the 5th inning while running over to center field to back up a play. he stopped short, started to hop, and then sat down on the outfield grass until the trainer came out to meet him. Michael thought something snapped and feared an Achilles injury. he slowly walked off the field under his own power, but needed assistance going down the dugout steps. the MRI showed a mild ankle sprain and Michael was placed on the 10-Day DL for the second time in the season on August 9.

Michael remained in a walking boot and unable to run until the beginning of September. then he was permitted to run on the AlterG, an anti-gravity treadmill that aids in assisted running by taking the weight off. after a few weeks went by, Michael still could not run on the field, so he met with an ankle specialist in Vail, Colorado. Dr. Thomas Clanton diagnosed him with a deltoid ligament sprain and ankle synovitis on September 19 and advised Michael be shut down from all running activities for 7-10 days. following another week back in the walking boot, Michael progressed to light running in the field. within a couple of days, he advanced to sprints, cuts, lateral running, and baserunning. altogether, 50 games passed by the time Michael was activated from the disabled list on September 30 with two games left in the regular season, of which he played in both. all the daily updates from his stint on the DL can be found in the Brantley Activated from 10-Day DL, Ankle Updates (August 10 - September 30) blog.

on October 3, Michael was named to the postseason American League Division Series roster. he claimed he was feeling good and everything was trending in the right direction. ultimately, he played in three of the Indians' five postseason games. be that as it may, he was wearing a walking boot after games, causing tongues to wag. and now here we are, discovering that Michael had surgery. it's upsetting, i'm not gonna lie.😞

okay, let me back up for a second. as soon as the more specific diagnosis came to light, i of course did my own research. i always knew that surgery could be a possibility, but once Michael came off the DL and then played in the postseason, i kinda ruled that option out. anyway, here is what i found and what i wrote about deltoid ligament sprains in the aforementioned Ankle Updates blog:

"so what's a deltoid ligament sprain? the deltoid ligament itself is a band connecting the lower leg bone (tibia) to the inner side of the ankle. it supports the ankle and prevents it from over rotation. a sprain is basically caused by severe trauma and results in outward twisting of the ankle, but it's not common and usually comes with a broken fibula (which Michael thankfully does not have!!!). the Indians did not reveal the grade of his sprain, low or high, but since Michael is still able to walk on his foot, it's probably a lower grade issue. typical treatment involves RICE: rest, ice, compression, and elevation as well as NSAIDs. most people do not need surgery; however, if the ankle does not respond to treatments and surgery is required, an athlete cannot engage in sports activities for SIX MONTHS. for more information, check out:"

my initial thoughts upon hearing this news: how could Michael have been cleared to play if he was just going to end up requiring surgery now? how was he able to run? i didn't understand. and it's almost like, by not having the surgery sooner, the Indians essentially screwed Michael over because he could already have been one month into his recovery had he gone under the knife in September. if surgery was ever going to be needed, it should have happened earlier.

Lonnie Soloff, the Indians Senior Director of Medical Services, gave more details on the procedure and answered my questions when he and Chris Antonetti, President of Baseball Operations, took part in a conference call with some reporters today. Bastian has all of it on his blog on "the ankle, it progressed from a hypermobility issue--so, just having extra motion in the ankle--to a level of instability. and, when it became unstable, that was when we tapped into to Dr. Clanton in Vail, his assessment, and that's when we understood that a surgical procedure to stabilize the inside of his ankle may be a real possibility. the procedure itself is done and they pull up the ligaments that have been sprained or partially torn from the bone, and then they anchor them back down to that bone.

"any time you have an instability of a joint, and specifically the ankle, it can be a combination of tearing of ligaments or ligaments that have been overstretched and become what's called attenuated or redundant. in essence, they're not doing their job. so, regardless of if they're torn or if they're overstretched, they weren't doing a good enough job to allow his ankle to be stable enough, and that's when they are repaired back down."

evidently, the team knew this surgery was a possible outcome before the playoffs began, but didn't disclose that info publicly. "we knew it would be a possibility," admitted Antonetti. "we had conferred with the doctors and they had assured us that Michael wasn't really at risk for additional injury to the ankle, and the best course of action would be to get through the season and then, at the end of the season, reassess where his ankle is, do some additional testing and then determine the best path forward. following the season, Michael had another opinion by Dr. Anderson in North Carolina. Dr. Anderson confirmed and shared a similar opinion with Dr. Clanton in Colorado and recommended they go and do surgery to stabilize the ankle, because that would give Michael the best path forward. and so that's exactly what we did."

"no, he didn't sustain a setback [in the ALDS]," Antonetti continued. "it was a ligament issue that he was experiencing through most of the season. just for clarity on that: his ankle was unaffected when hitting. the places where he would have been limited are when he was running, and he didn't have a whole lot of opportunities in the series to run. but, to give you an idea of how Michael was feeling and the subjective reports, we were actually considering him as an option in the outfield based upon how he felt about his ankle, both the strength and the discomfort. so, i'm not sure. i mean, i know Michael didn't have a ton of success in the postseason, but i don't think the ankle was at the root of that."

Antonetti also reaffirmed that Michael will likely miss most of spring training for the third straight year. "i think that's exactly what we said, that we expect it--based upon the doctors--to be in the four-to-five month time range."

this marks Michael's third surgery in three years. he has spent the past two offseasons/spring trainings rehabbing from labrum and biceps surgery, respectively, and has not been able to go through a regular offseason regime since Spring Training 2015. having to refrain from baseball activities for yet another offseason will assure that he's going to need to shake off rust to start yet another regular season. his 2018 spring training should be almost a carbon copy of his 2017 spring, where he didn't play in many games with the team and was still trying to find his timing at the plate when the 2017 regular season began. and he's at even more of a disadvantage going into 2018 because he did not play a full year this year and, despite putting up some solid stats when he did play in 2017, i'm not sure if he ever really "found himself" at the plate. now he'll have to attempt to do it all over again. i feel so bad for Michael and have to wonder why these unfortunate things keep happening to him. my heart is broken.💔

the other big issue here is this surely puts Michael's $12 million club option in jeopardy. he worked so hard for that in 2014 and 2015, and now there is almost no way the Indians are going to pay him that much money. (yeah, but they're cool with giving Jason Kipnis $13.7 mill and we don't even know if he'll be able to put together a full and healthy season.😕) Paul Hoynes wrote in an article for that it's believed the team has already been trying to renegotiate a deal with Michael. great, get him to sign off on a crappy deal while he's on painkillers and can't think straight. if they can't reach an agreement and the team exercises the $1 million buyout instead, Michael will become a free agent. a resolution will be made no later than three days after the conclusion of the World Series.😰😱

according to Bastian's blog, this surgery will have an impact on what the team chooses to do. "that's something we're still working through," Antonetti declared. "what we know about Michael is, when he's healthy, he's been really productive. so, the things we have to weigh are the expected level of productivity and how available he'll be to perform. those are the things that we'll have to weigh, and that's what we'll spend some time here working through over the next couple weeks."

what about restructuring the contract? "i'm not sure it's productive for me to get into hypotheticals. i think it would make the most sense for us to work through that option decision and then deal with anything at that point. as i've always told you and shared when we got together at the end of the year, we've always envisioned Michael being part of our organization, not only in 2018, but beyond.

"i think the good news about this is we have clarity about the path forward with his ankle and the outcomes with this surgery are really good. based upon the time frame we've been given from the doctors, we expect him to be ready for the start of the season or very close to the start of the season next year, which would make him available to us. i think, what we've seen, when Michael has been healthy and on the field, he's been an exceedingly productive player and he continues to be a critical and important person within our organization."

when healthy, Michael is one of the best and most consistent hitters on the team. he doesn't deserve a shitty contract, not even after his surgery. if i'm Michael's agent, i am not backing down or settling for a huge pay cut for my client because of this minor setback. Michael's reputation is too strong. and by the way, a player who started his Major League career in 2009 and dealt with major injury issues for almost all of 2016 and half of 2017 is NOT injury prone. do the math people. if Michael could come back from all those right shoulder and biceps problems from 2016, then i know he'll come back from this. i've had faith in Michael all along when hardly anybody else did, and i'm not going to lose that faith now. #1fan

Hoynsie also speculates that Michael may move to 1st base and Antonetti addressed a potential position change in Bastian's blog. "that's something we would have to work through and think about the best composition of our roster, but also have a better understanding of what would be the best position for Michael to stay healthy and succeed. any discussion of that right now would be far too preliminary and not something we've really engaged in any sort of detail."

here's my thinking on that: why do you want to move a guy who's led the Indians' outfielders in assists in four of his last five seasons? every year from 2013-2017 minus 2016, Michael has held the team lead in outfield assists. why "waste" that arm over at 1st base? yes, Michael injured his shoulder on a dive in left, but he is fully recovered from that. and no, Michael did not injure his ankle in the outfield. the origin came from stepping on 1st base wrong in May and it just never fully healed. so the argument that Michael "needs to get out of left field" is both inaccurate and a disservice to the composition of the Tribe's outfield.

besides that, Michael has never played 1st base in the Major Leagues. in fact, he hasn't played 1st base since he was in Double A with the Huntsville Stars (affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers) back in 2008! between 2007-2008, Michael only played 53 games total at the position. (people who don't think Kipnis should be playing CF after his limited experience in the minors probably wouldn't be pleased with moving Michael to 1st either. be careful what you wish for.) in my opinion, 1st base would involve a lot quicker footwork than playing left field would. don't believe Michael can run in left field anymore? okay well, i'm not convinced 1st base is going to be any easier on him. we can't guarantee that this "experiment" would work out for the best. you really think an abbreviated spring, when Michael needs to be focused on rehabbing that ankle, is the most ideal time to have him re-learn a very old position, and that's going to yield great results? and to those who still think his right shoulder is a problem, which it isn't, you do realize that 1st base requires a lot more diving to try and keep balls from going into right field, don't you? why take that risk? leave him in left. fight for it, Brant. and good luck, Joshua, on getting a fair deal for your boy.

keep following me on twitter @clevelandgirl23 for all the latest news, including if the Indians pick up Michael's option and recovery updates from his surgery. i'll be posting more offseason blogs, too, so if you'd like to join my subscription list, just enter your email address in the box underneath the Blog Archive sidebar over on the upper right side of the page.📧

get well soon, Michael!💗 i'm rooting for you!

i was #herebeforethebandwagon and i'll be the #lastfanstanding

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