It shouldn’t be too much longer until the Cleveland Indians get the missing two-thirds of their starting outfield back onto the Major League roster and off of the 15-day disabled list.
That was the word from Progressive Field on Sunday afternoon, as reports from manager Terry Francona indicated that both players are progressing and could return shortly, barring any late setbacks.
Both Brantley and Chisenhall were present in downtown Cleveland on Sunday afternoon for the Indians pregame workout and the rubber match with the New York Mets, a disappointing 6-0 defeat that only further reminded everyone the importance of these two missing offensive weapons from the Tribe’s lineup.
“He’s doing okay,” said Francona of Chisenhall, the closer of the two players to returning. “It’s more now getting back adjusted to playing nine innings of baseball, playing right field, making the plays and getting his at bats. His at bats have just been so sporadic that you need some time to kind of be able to do what you can do.”
Given the Indians’ extremely lefty-heavy schedule through the first two weeks of the season, the absence of Chisenhall has not been as noticeable given his tendencies to sit against southpaws. Six of the ten starting pitchers that the Indians have seen this season have been left-handed (David Price, John Danks, Chris Sale, Matt Moore, Drew Smyly, and Sunday’s starter, Steven Matz).
Francona indicated that Chisenhall was likely to be activated on Wednesday, which will enable Cleveland to skip him past yet another left-handed starter, Seattle’s Wade Miley, who is scheduled to pitch the first game of the three-game series between the Indians and Mariners at Progressive Field starting on Tuesday night. Chisenhall has been out since late spring while dealing with a left wrist impingement, after also missing time during spring training with a right forearm issue.
The left-handed hitting right fielder has appeared in five games during his rehab assignment with stops in Triple-A Columbus and Double-A Akron along the way. The process was delayed as three straight rain outs in Columbus prevented him from playing in his first game until April 10. He notched his first hit of the minor league season on Friday night with the RubberDucks, as he singled and drove in a run in the third and sacrificed home Clint Frazier in the fifth with his second RBI of the game. He is 1-for-15 (.067) with four RBI, one run scored, four strikeouts, and three walks through those five games.
Brantley, working his way back from offseason right shoulder surgery, has played partial games every other day since beginning his rehab assignment with the Clippers on April 12. He doubled and scored a run in his first at bat of the season in that game before moving his rehab assignment to Akron. He added a single on April 14 for the RubberDucks before going 0-for-3 with a walk in Saturday’s loss to the Bowie BaySox.
“I feel especially aggressive every day,” shared Brantley with the media after his first game in Akron, “trying to get a good fastball and put a good swing on it. I’m not going to change my approach to let me see more pitches. I’m just about getting the barrel to the ball.
“To have a couple of hits already and obviously hit a couple of balls hard, I’m excited about it.
“You never know how you’re going to bounce back, especially after playing a game. For what I feel right now, I’m very excited about where I am and how well my shoulder is responding.”
He played four innings in his debut, increased it to five innings in his second game, and played seven full innings with the RubberDucks on April 16. If he follows his current schedule, he would be expected to see action on Monday, April 18.
“I was very happy with the way it responded,” said Brantley. “Like I said before, it’s in a good spot. My body feels great and I’m very happy with where I am.”
Chisenhall is scheduled to play right field on Monday night for Double-A Akron and designated hitter on Tuesday. Prior to returning, the team wants Brantley to play in consecutive games, which could happen some time this week.
If Chisenhall returns as planned on Wednesday, it will begin some difficult roster decisions for the Indians. Presumably, the club would opt to remove one of the outfielders on the roster, as the team already is utilizing Rajai Davis, Tyler Naquin, Marlon Byrd, and Collin Cowgill at the position, with a regular and steady dose of Jose Ramirez as well. The Indians could instead opt to make a move in the bullpen and decrease the staff to a seven-man relief corps. Someone else on the roster landing on the disabled list is not necessarily out of the question either, as anything could happen between now and Wednesday afternoon.
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