Brantley Helps Lead Tribe In Any Place of Batting Order
By Mike Brandyberry
In 2010 and 2011, Michael Brantley worked to solidify himself as a member of the Cleveland Indians. This year, not just has Brantley solidifies his place on the team, but he’s potentially moved himself in to a core member of the organization for the present and future.
Brantley is having his best season as a big leaguer, hitting .288, with three home runs, 42 runs batted in and 10 stolen bases. While it is clearly his best season, he is taking each day, one at a time.
“It’s going ok,” Brantley said. “There’s still things I need to improve on I’m always looking to get better and do what it takes to be a complete ballplayer and I just look forward to each and every day and give it my best.”
Brantley originally started the season as the Tribe’s leadoff hitter. However, after a mediocre April where he hit only .250, he was moved down in the order when Johnny Damon was activated to the roster. While Damon struggled in the leadoff role, Brantley thrived hitting seventh and eventually settling in to the fifth spot in the order.
He’s hitting .311 in the fifth spot of the batting order, but has hit in every spot from 1-7. He is the only major leaguer to hit in seven different batting spots in the first half of the season. According to Brantley, where he hits in the order doesn’t change his approach or mindset when he walks to the plate.
“My job is to go out there each and every time and get a quality at bat no matter where I’m hitting, Brantley said. “Wherever Manny puts me in the lineup, it’s my job to go out there and get it done and that’s what I look forward to doing.”
Shortly after Brantley settled in to the fifth spot in the order he began a 22-game hitting streak, the longest in the Major Leagues this season. Brantley had a hit in each game from May 20 to June 15 and had the longest streak by an Indian since Casey Blake hit in 26 consecutive games in 2007. Brantley gives little notice to the hitting streak, instead just focusing on getting a hit each day.
“I really don’t pay too much attention to that,” Brantley said. “My job is to go out and get a hit every day. It’s not easy, absolutely not, but that’s my job. I don’t pay attention to how many games it was. I didn’t talk about it much, during or after. I just didn’t get a hit. That’s the bottom line. I just try to take every day for what it is and don’t look too far forward or too far backwards.”
Brantley has hit in 40 of 44 games since the birth of his streak in late May. He feels he was very close to a season like this a year ago until a wrist injury in July hampered his season. Eventually the injury became too much to play through and affected his production. In a limited August Brantley hit .211 in 60 plate appearances.
“I feel like I was very close,” Brantley said. “The wrist injury really affects your swing. I’m 100% healthy right now. It feels good to be out there each and every day and getting quality at bats. I just look forward to having a strong second half as well.”
Brantley admits now, the wrist injury bothered him for some time before he finally gave in and was placed on the disabled list. Once on the disabled list, he eventually had surgery and his season ended. He had hoped he could play through the pain and continue to help the Indians compete in the Central Division race.
“It was something I didn’t want to come out for, I wanted to keep trying to battle,” Brantley said. “You can only do so much. You’ve got to know your limitations sometimes.”
Now completely healthy in 2012, Brantley has become one of the toughest outs in the American League. He hits .333 with runners in scoring position and two out and is the 10th toughest hitter to strike out in the AL. Brantley prides himself and not changing his approach and staying consistent in all situations.
“I try to do the same thing as every other at bat, get a quality strike out over the plate that I can put a good swing on,” Brantley said. “I can’t dictate where it’s going to go, but I know if I can put a good swing on it, I like my chances.”
The Indians hope his health and consistency continue to lead to many more good swings in the second half. If Brantley remains healthy he’ll be a key part of a push to an American League Central Division crown and a core member of the organization for seasons to come.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images