Injury News and More from Indians’ Camp in Goodyear
Bob Toth | On 06, Mar 2017
With more than a full week of spring training action now under their belts, baseball season is in full go in Arizona and Florida as Major League squads look to prepare for the pending 2017 regular season grind.
In addition to watching the handful of camp battles resolve themselves over the rest of March, the focus around baseball will be on the returns to health of a handful of rehabbing players and an emphasis on not adding too many additional new names to the injury report.
The Cleveland Indians have been able to avoid anything significant in the early going, but eyes have been trained on a handful of veterans who had yet to make their spring debuts.
There was some concern early on from outsiders that the Indians’ decision to hold ace Corey Kluber out of action at the beginning of camp was a sign of impending doom.
That was just not the case as the team is just being cautious with their top arm after a short offseason and an earlier start to spring training this year due to the World Baseball Classic.
Kluber threw an inning of work in front of a nice audience of young Indians pitching prospects a week ago and is slated to make his 2017 Cactus League debut on Monday afternoon as the split-squad Indians host the Milwaukee Brewers. His rotation teammate, Danny Salazar, will make a start on the road as the other group of Tribe players take on the San Francisco Giants.
TAKING IT SLOW WITH TOMLIN
Four regular contributors to the Indians pitching staff last season had not made their spring debuts before the start of Sunday’s contest with the San Diego Padres. Relievers Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen, whose respective heavy workloads have been a point of discussion over the last several seasons, each threw an inning in the contest, with Allen working a perfect inning with a strikeout while Shaw struck out three around a pair of hits in an inning.
Starters Kluber and Josh Tomlin have been held back.
Tomlin stayed remotely healthy for the length of the 2016 season, getting some extended rest when opportunities presented themselves during the campaign. He is coming off of a career-high 174 innings pitched during the regular season, when he was second in the rotation in starts with 29 while boasting a 13-9 record with a 4.40 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP (including just 20 walks for the year).
THE DOCTOR IS IN
There is plenty of merited speculation on what, if anything, Brantley will be able to provide the Indians if he can prove to be past the shoulder and biceps issues that he suffered through last season. The lingering complications from a September 2015 injury in the outfield at Target Field limited him to just eleven games in 2016. Despite that, the Indians were able to use a revolving door of platoon options in his position and took the league by storm.
The cautious approach with Brantley has led to good news overall, as the veteran outfielder awoke on Sunday reportedly feeling good after taking batting practice on consecutive days.
“He’s handling everything remarkably well. That’s probably the best way we can say it,” said manager Terry Francona in a Sunday afternoon update regarding his one-time All-Star left fielder. “You can see he’s in great shape. He’s worked so hard that he’s cut. He’s worked so hard. We’ve just kind of got to let it play itself out and not try to rush it.”
While there is no timetable for Brantley to jump into Cactus League action, he was scheduled to hit against Tomlin in simulated action on Monday.
MORE ON KIPNIS…
Kipnis was expected to join Brantley on the practice field to take some cuts on Monday after returning to the regular batting practice on Saturday. Like the others, the team has been careful with their second baseman, who has been dealing with a mild rotator cuff strain.
“It feels good. Swinging has been feeling good for a while,” shared Kipnis Sunday on Indians.com. Just going through our progressions, that’s part of the program, to kind of activate the shoulder and everything around it. There is no reason to put a band-aid over a problem that you can hopefully just get rid of because you have time, the luxury, of having weeks not days to get rid of it now so might as well take advantage of it.”
Free agent addition Austin Jackson could make his spring training debut with the Indians sometime this week as he looks to return from a torn medial meniscus in his left knee that required surgery and knocked him out for the second half of his 2016 season.
In camp with Cleveland on a non-roster invite to compete for a spot in the crowded, but somewhat unsettled, outfield for the club, the 30-year-old right-handed hitting outfielder appeared in 54 games for the Chicago White Sox last season, hitting .254 with a .318 on-base percentage.
Jackson signed with the Indians at the end of January on a minor league deal and could make a base salary of $1.5 million with the possibility of another $4 million through incentives if he is on the Cleveland roster. He could also opt out from the contract at the end of spring training if not in a position to make the Opening Day club.
Center fielder Tyler Naquin left Sunday’s game against the Padres after fouling a fifth inning pitch from former Indians minor leaguer Jhoulys Chacin off of his right foot. He left the game and underwent x-rays, but the team announced early on Monday that it was determined to be just a contusion.
He is expected to resume normal action in a few days after the swelling subsides, according to Francona.
GOOD RESULTS FOR GUYER
Brandon Guyer returned to the playing field for the first time this spring on Saturday and worked as the club’s designated hitter. Fresh off of a two-year contract extension with a team option signed in the offseason, he made up for lost time with a double and a home run in his first action of the spring after being slowed by a right hamstring injury sustained at the beginning of camp.
Expected to platoon with left-handed hitting Lonnie Chisenhall in right field this season, Guyer slashed .266/.372/.423 in 101 games last season, which included a .333/.438/.469 mark in 38 games after being acquired by the Indians at the non-waivers trade deadline. The “Human Piñata” led the American League in times hit by pitch for the second consecutive season in 2016.
Photo: Rob Tringali/Getty Images