Thursday, February 22, 2018

Brantley News & Ankle Updates from February 2018 (Pre-Spring Games)

play ball! the Cleveland Indians will do just that tomorrow when their first Cactus League game officially gets underway. well, most of the Indians, that is. stop me if you've heard this before--Michael Brantley is not quite ready to play in spring games yet. once again, the Tribe is being cautious with the left fielder's rehab, this time from right ankle surgery, and going slow with his running program. he's currently a little over four months removed from the procedure he had done in the offseason on October 18, 2017, to stabilize the ligaments.

like last year, i decided to give you guys all the February updates that i've come across prior to game action. after months of not getting any satisfying information about Michael's status, this blog contains details on where Michael is in his recovery, what he's allowed to do activity-wise, and a tentative plan for progression in the next couple weeks. there are also plenty of quotes, pictures, and links to videos, as well as an interview that Michael did with himself!😀

if you've missed any news since Michael had his surgery, i've got you. here are all the previous blogs i've written with updates between October 19, 2017, and January 27, 2018:
Brantley Undergoes Right Ankle Surgery, Recovery Will Take 4-5 Months
Brantley News from October 2017
Brantley News from November 2017 & Why He Shouldn't
Move to 1st Base
Brantley News & Ankle Updates from December 2017
Brantley News & Ankle Updates from January 2018

now let's see what Michael's been up to so far this month! 

February 5: in Jordan Bastian's article on, Terry Francona spoke about having lost a few players to free agency. "you're going to lose guys. you can't keep everybody. we can't be the team that signs guys to their second or third contract. we need to be that team that gets guys for years one through eight, maybe give them that second contract."

of course i immediately related that to Michael and thought about how that would apply to him at the end of the 2018 season. basically, he's gone. but it's sad because Tito's bluntness is pretty much the exact opposite of what Chris Antonetti said shortly after the Tribe was eliminated in the 2017 American League Division Series. per Bastian's October 13th blog on, the Indians' President of Baseball Operations disclosed, "as we told Michael, we've always envisioned him being part of the organization, not only for 2018, but beyond. that's been our mindset from the beginning."😕

February 9: Bastian predicted the Indians' 25-man Opening Day roster in an article on he did not include Michael because he noted they're awaiting word as to whether he'll be ready by then and his status could impact how the roster shakes out. Bastian wrote, "until there is clarity with Brantley's comeback, there will be a chance that [Jason] Kipnis opens the year in left field." he mentioned that Lonnie Chisenhall played some left field last season as well, and also speculated Michael could be a candidate to get some at-bats as a DH this year.

February 10: Dennis, @denny24tribefan on twitter, asked Paul Hoynes, "do you know if Michael Brantley will be ready at the start of spring training??" Hoynsie replied that he was told the situation hasn't changed and Michael will be touch and go to start the regular season on time. many comments were left under that tweet condemning the Indians for picking up Michael's option, but i don't interpret this as a bad response. last we heard from Antonetti and Francona at Tribe Fest, Michael was doing well in his rehab, but they weren't going to know if he'll start the year on time until he ramps up his activities in camp. nice to see the Brantley hate continue though.😠 (y'all better not cheer for him when he's batting .300...)

February 13: another piece from Bastian on recalled how, for the third straight year, we don't know if Michael will be ready in time for Opening Day. Bastian claimed Michael's injury is casting doubt over his potential availability for spring training, but surmised there should start to be more clarity about where Michael is on his current comeback trail when the players have their first full-squad workout [February 19]. then JB ran through scenarios on replacements for Michael in left field if his rehab lingers into April.

not even an hour after the publication of that article, a picture emerged of Michael throwing the baseball on the day before pitchers and catchers had to report to Goodyear, Arizona:

photo courtesy of @Indians on twitter

February 14: Hoynsie's article again maintained that Michael's status for Opening Day is touch and go. then when pondering who would bat 5th in the order, he named Michael as an option before acknowledging, "when Brantley has been healthy enough to play the last two years, Francona usually hits him third."

in the afternoon, Bastian's article on communicated, via Antonetti, that Michael is currently able to throw, take part in limited hitting activity, and do straight-forward jogging. sprinting, agility work, and baserunning will be slowly added into his running program over the next few weeks. "Brant's doing well," Antonetti informed. "overall, his rehab and his progression all offseason has been very good. he's met every one of the checkpoints so far. as we shared, we really won't have a firm timetable until he's able to run and sprint and cut. that's going to be the biggest limiting factor."

at night, MLB Network began airing their Top 100 Players Right Now countdown. after not seeing Michael's name in the first 40 players that were revealed, i wrote a blog declaring he didn't rank on the list. i kinda figured since he was not featured on either of the first two episodes and didn't even make the Top 10 Left Fielders list, that he probably wouldn't be on the Top 100. when the series wrapped up on February 16, i discovered i was right. so for the first time since 2014, Michael is no longer viewed as one of baseball's elite. more details can be found in my post Brantley Not Ranked in MLB Network's Top 100 Players Right Now. 

February 15: a medical update was released today from TribeVibe on like yesterday, it stated: "Michael is progressing well and as expected. he has resumed straight ahead running, along with long toss and cage batting practice. he will continue a graduated increase in activity over the next couple of weeks."

Bastian's daily article on reiterated how Michael is behind the pack this preseason and his availability for Opening Day is questionable. he described Michael as standing at the edge of the weight room at the team's complex and peering out at the diamond, where teammates fed off BP fastballs.

"we want to make sure we're taking a longer view," explained Antonetti. "the thing we're most focused on is, 'how do we have the best version of Michael Brantley for as much of the season as possible?' if that's Opening Day, great. if it's not, that's fine, too. as we saw last year, when he's healthy, he's still a really good player. and we're looking forward to Michael contributing in that way for us whenever he's ready to go.

"he's progressed well and met every benchmark across the way this offseason. we'll know more as he tests his ankle out more and progresses to turning and cutting and quick movements. then, we'll have a better sense of a timetable from there."

btw, the video embedded within this article remarked how the decision to pick up Michael's option was "not unanimously accepted in Cleveland."😒

February 16: SportsTime Ohio's twitter account provided video of Antonetti speaking on Michael to the media from the day before.

Michael played long toss with Kipnis on Diamond #1 at the complex, as can be seen in this video on the facebook page.

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

February 17: Hayden Grove spotted Michael doing drills on a field, stretching and running, during his facebook video for

Bastian again proclaimed in an article for that Michael's status for Opening Day is questionable.

February 18: four months removed from surgery, on position players report day, Michael threw the ball with Melvin Upton, Jr. and Chisenhall, according to's twitter. you can watch Michael play catch with Chiz a little in's video on facebook.

photo courtesy of @clevelanddotcom on twitter

in another facebook video for, Grove and Hoynsie answered fan questions. Grove referenced how in Francona's press conference, Tito felt Michael looked about as good as you can look for a guy who's not able to run. Grove similarly assessed that Michael is in great shape, and Hoynsie guessed Michael spent most of the winter rehabbing in Cleveland once again.

Tito's presser can be found in full on the conversation about Michael begins at the 10:45 mark. to sum up, he stressed that if Michael has to miss the first two or three weeks of the season in order for him to get fully healthy and be the player he can be, then that's what they'll shoot for. "Brant, to me, Brant looks terrific. i mean, my goodness sakes. he looks, is in shape as you can be. i mean, for a guy who couldn't run, he's in great shape. and we talked about it this winter, he's just an easy guy to, not just to pull for, but to bet on."

"i do admire [Michael]. that's a good word. i think we all do. we respect him immensely. i mean, he's what you're looking for, man. he's a great teammate, he works his ass off, really good player. he just hasn't been healthy and that's not due to anything other than playing the game the right way."

Hoynsie also included his reminder in a article that Michael is questionable for the season opener on March 29.

February 19: on the first full-squad workout day, Michael was recorded taking BP in the batting cage on the Diamond #1 field at the Tribe's complex. it was his first time swinging the bat on the field this spring. the twitter account has a short video of that and another one in slow-mo, but their facebook page video has longer footage of Michael in the cage around the 56:00, 1:00:00, 1:04:30, and 1:06:00 marks.

photo courtesy of Chuck Crow via The Plain Dealer

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

when Francisco Lindor was asked about Michael's first BP in a twitter video, he responded, "damn, that's his first BP? damn. how come i can't do that? like, i've been hitting all offseason. i show up and he has... he had a great BP today, you know? he looked good, strong, driving the ball everywhere on the field. he probably won't tell you that, but he looked really good and he probably... he was fun to watch. to me, Brantley, Brantley's like daddy, you know? whatever Brantley does, i'm doing it. so watching him, i'm happy for him and it's fun to watch."

the 'daddy' moniker is particularly funny because, as Bastian reported in his Major League Bastian blog on, one of Lindor's back pockets was inside out during batting practice. after Michael took his turn in the cage and saw Lindor's fashion mishap, he walked up to Lindor, stopped, tucked the pocket in, patted him on the back, and then continued walking. so parental lol

we got the obligatory "[Michael's] availability for Opening Day remains questionable" line in JB's post as well, as there is still a ways to go in his running program. conversely, it was deduced that Michael's BP sesh on the field was encouraging.

in another twitter vid from, Bastian queried how important Michael has been for Lindor in his career. "extremely important, you know? every time i have a question, i go up to Brantley. every time i'm thinking something about hitting, i go to Brantley. every time i'm thinking about something in the game, i go to Brantley, you know? Brantley, he's... he has helped me a lot. he's one of the reasons why i'm Francisco Lindor. he's helped me a lot. i thank the lord for putting him in my path."🙏

Francona also expressed some thoughts about Michael in Chris Assenheimer's article. "he can do it all, which is good. and he's been running. he just hasn't been doing the cutting and stuff yet. he's in fabulous shape. you can see it when you look at him. he's cut. and that can't be really easy to do when you have an ankle like that where you can't really do aerobically as much as you would like. i'm telling you, man, if work ethic, if it means anything, he's going to be OK, because he's unbelievable. and i think his world gets better as he's able to do baseball stuff. he spent a lot of time, a lot of monotonous time, doing things that if you shortchange it, it's not going to work. but, it's not very much fun. now, he gets to actually do baseball stuff. i think his world gets a lot brighter."

in a podcast, Hoynsie gave a quick update on Michael: "Michael Brantley took BP today. it looked very impressive. he hasn't started cutting when he's running, but he's running in a straight line. he can throw, he can swing the bat. they still don't know if he's gonna be ready Opening Day."

February 20: when dissecting the Indians' outfield in an article on, Terry Pluto listed Michael as questionable for the opener.

here's a picture of Michael with Upton, Jr., Abraham Almonte, and Rajai Davis, heading to live BP after outfield defensive drills were completed on Diamond #1:

photo courtesy of Chuck Crow via The Plain Dealer

and here's a picture of Michael watching Cameron Hill throw live BP:

photo courtesy of Chuck Crow via The Plain Dealer

Assenheimer supplied a quick twitter video of Michael taking live BP on the field, with Tom Hamilton behind the cage.

later on, in a video on's facebook page, Grove did a Q&A with Hammy, who commented, "Michael Brantley looks great. i mean, if you didn't know he had ankle surgery, i think you've seen him, too, Hayden, he's swinging the bat like it's July. and so that's obviously a critical component, having Michael healthy." however, he concluded that Michael is still a question mark for starting the year on time.

oh and you can check out Michael at his locker after practice in the background of a clubhouse interview with Mike Clevinger, via's twitter.

February 21: on photo and media day, Michael signed plenty of items, including baseballs and bats, for Cleveland Indians Charities before getting on the field to work out.

photos courtesy of Chuck Crow via The Plain Dealer

in an evening article on by Hoynsie, the possibility of Michael opening the season on the disabled list was again indicated.

February 22: finally, Michael did an interview with the media. Bastian has the recap in full on in the morning, Michael saw the reporters coming as he took a drink out of the cooler in the clubhouse and shook his head. "i don't do interviews anymore. it's in my contract now. it's written really small. you have to read the fine print."

(my thoughts quickly: considering how most of those reporters didn't even want Michael to return to the team, i would have told them to EFF off for real, but that's just me. furthermore, it was ridiculous to see the fact that some fans believed Michael was seriously being a jerk and griped that he shouldn't be copping an attitude when the Indians took a chance on his club option. for the love of god, am i the only Brantley fan left on social media?! fine, i'll wear that title with pride.🥇😁)

walking back to his locker, the writers followed, knowing full well Michael was joking. everyone should be able to presume Michael's answers by now, since he's kept to some classic, customary quotes in every interview session he's done lol

"you already know what i'm going to say," Michael smirked.

"maybe you should ask the questions," Corey Kluber offered from a few lockers over. "then, they can say your answers."

"i don't know why we do this every year. you answer the questions for me, or do you want me to do my own interview and you just have the mic for me?"

and so started the Michael Brantley self-interview. 

"'Brant, how are you feeling?' i'm feeling good. i'm getting better each and every day. i'm glad to be out there with my teammates. i'm running and every day i'm getting stronger and i'm really happy where i'm at.

'is Opening Day a target?' i don't have no targets. i just really want to take it one day at a time. everything is progressing well. i'm very happy with where i am. it's an artificial deadline. i just want to make sure that when i come back, i'm 100 percent and ready to go, so i can be there for a long season."

after some laughter, Michael inquired, "you want me to keep going?

'what activities are you doing?' i'm hitting. i'm running. i'm throwing. yes, i get to take BP again today. i'm very excited. i came a long ways. it's a good group of guys helping me in the locker room. the medical staff and doctors, they always take care of me. to get me back here again, i just really appreciate the effort that everybody put in for helping me.

'anything else?' yeah, we have a great group of guys in this locker room that are going to try really hard. should i keep going?"

Bastian specified that this exchange lasted a minute and a half. the scribes then fired off their own questions for another seven minutes.

in regards to which rehab process was more difficult, the shoulder last year or the ankle now, Michael divulged, "shoulder, hands down. the shoulder has so many moving parts and so many things that you have to do. obviously, the first surgery didn't work out and we had to have another one, which made it a little tougher, to have another rehab on the same shoulder. definitely the shoulder."

when Michael made the AL All Star Team last season, it meant a lot to him. "all the hard work paid off. the extra time i put in to make sure i stayed in Cleveland to get my rehab correct, the extra time i put in day in and day out when i didn't have to, when i went in on Saturdays, that it all worked out. it's just nice to be rewarded for the hard work that you put in."

unlike his previous two offseason rehabs, this time Michael returned home to Florida for the winter. "i went home and tried to have as much of a normal offseason as i could have and enjoy some warmer weather."

naturally, somebody brought up the $12 million club option.🙄 Michael affirmed that Antonetti kept him in the loop on the team's thinking. "i just knew this was where i wanted to be, that's first and foremost. i didn't have any doubts. me and Mr. Antonetti talked. i talked to the front office and we had an open dialogue the whole time. they expressed what their plans were and i'm back. there was nowhere else i wanted to be, nowhere else i continue to want to be. i love the guys in this locker room and in the front office. i'm thankful and blessed to be back here. it's a good group of guys."

still, Michael (and several other Indians) knows this could be his final year with the Tribe. "every year is important. i don't care what it is. i want to win every single year. i never want to lose. whether i come back or not, whomever comes back or not, that's out of our control. we're just going to go out this year and continue to stay focused on the task at hand, which is winning the World Series."

Hoynsie's article on later uncovered that Michael really didn't know if the Indians would exercise his option for this year or not. additionally, Hoynsie showed Michael's age by pointing out how Dr. Smooth came up in the league in 2009 with players like Jhonny Peralta, Grady Sizemore, Asdrubal Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo, and Travis Hafner around him. "we had a group of older guys who all went about their business the right way. Victor Martinez talked to me every day. the little things i picked up on were more me just watching because i was quiet. but at the same time, i learned from all of them."

Michael did, indeed, take BP again today, on Diamond #1, as observed by BRB Joe on twitter.

during another facebook live stream video, Hoynsie confirmed Michael's doing everything except cutting--he's running in a straight line, throwing, and hitting. "i think he's progressing really well. he still doesn't know if he'll be ready for Opening Day, but i think he's... he's progressing and, you know, i know he's excited about this season and i think, you know, we didn't think he'd be ready last year with the shoulder surgery and he made it back on Opening Day. i think there's a, i think the chances are getting better and better that he'll be ready when the Indians open the season March 29 in Seattle."

photos courtesy of Chuck Crow via The Plain Dealer

and that's it! so let me make it clear one more time: Michael is presently doing straight-ahead running, but no cutting, sprinting, or baserunning. that is not because he's suffered a setback, that's merely because he has not yet advanced to more aggressive running in his rehab. remember last August and September, how Michael couldn't run pain-free unless he was on that anti-gravity treadmill? well, Michael's past that now. he's been able to run pain-free on the field, so i take that as a very good sign.👌

as the Indians play their Cactus League games (starting tomorrow) and Michael continues his rehab running progressions, i will be gathering up all the new information that's announced. then when spring training is done (towards the end of March), i will post everything in a cumulative Brantley's Cactus League Rehab Details blog. and, just like last spring, i'm going to calculate Michael's rehab/spring numbers and publish a corresponding Brantley's Cactus League Rehab #s blog (with some predictions) as well.

be sure to check my twitter @clevelandgirl23 regularly for the latest news and daily updates on Michael's rehab throughout the rest of this spring. i will (hopefully) be live-tweeting all of Michael's rehab/Cactus League game appearances and at bats once again this year. by my best approximation, i'd say as long as there aren't any setbacks, then he should get into games around mid-March. will that be enough time and ABs for him to open the season with the Tribe? that question can't be answered right now. but regardless of if he starts the year on the DL or not, i'm still going to begin my #CelebratingMichaelBrantley tweets on April 2. in case you haven't heard, i plan to revisit some of Michael's most amazing moments in his career with the Indians by tweeting them every Monday during the 2018 campaign. follow the hashtag to keep up or contribute your own special memories!🎉

hey, are you on my subscription list? if not, you can enter your email address in the box underneath the Blog Archive sidebar over on the upper right side of this page. that way, you'll receive notifications every time i post a new blog!📧

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