Brantley and Perez Return to Lake County on Rehab Tour

There may not have been any Major League games played on Wednesday, but a pair of Cleveland Indians suited up and played in meaningful professional games.

Fans of the Cleveland Indians got some good news as two of their own took the field at Classic Park in their ongoing efforts to return from the disabled list as left fielder Michael Brantley and catcher Roberto Perez donned Lake County jerseys and participated in their rehab assignments in Eastlake as the Captains fell 8-4 to the Cedar Rapids Kernels.

It was day two of Brantley’s return to the field while working his way back from inflammation of his right shoulder and tendinitis of his right biceps. He appeared in a game on Monday with the short-season Mahoning Valley Scrappers, where he was 1-for-2 with a single and a walk while playing left field.

He initially injured the shoulder late last season diving for a fly ball in Minnesota and had surgery in the offseason, missing the start of the season while working his way back to full health. After appearing in seven rehab games, hitting .238 with a pair of doubles and two runs batted in, he rejoined the Indians, but full health never truly came. The 29-year-old appeared in just eleven games for Cleveland, hitting .231 with a .279 on-base percentage, two doubles, and seven RBI before he was slowed by recurring issues with the shoulder and, later, the biceps.

Perez has worked with the Arizona League Indians in Goodyear, Arizona, while recovering from a broken right thumb. He has been out since injuring the digit in a play at the plate on April 30 against the Philadelphia Phillies. Perez had surgery on the thumb and at the time was expected to miss eight to 12 weeks, putting him squarely between the two projections.

The backup backstop for the Indians had appeared in just four April games due to the weather and off days, going hitless with six walks and one RBI.

Both Brantley and Perez were in the starting lineup for the Captains and played more than half of the game as they eased their way back towards the Indians’ MLB roster.

The tandem got to work in the first inning, as Brantley doubled to right and Perez followed with a walk before Connor Marabell popped out into a double play, doubling up Perez from first. Brantley singled on another hit to right field in the bottom of the third before Perez grounded to short and into a force out, with Brantley forced at second to end the inning.

In his final at bat, Brantley grounded to second to end the fifth inning and was replaced defensively by Bobby Ison. Perez remained in the game and grounded out to third to start the bottom of the sixth inning before being replaced behind the plate by Sicnarf Loopstok.

Both of their replacements would strike out in their lone at bats to end the seventh and start the eighth, respectively. The Captains scored two in the seventh inning to pull within three runs, but a five-run fifth inning off of starter Brock Hartson, capped by a grand slam from Cedar Rapids’ Jaylin Davis, was too much to overcome.

It was the first time in his career that Brantley has worn the Captains jersey, but he was familiar with the park from his time with the West Virginia Power in 2006 and 2007 when he was playing at the Class-A level with the Milwaukee Brewers organization while both farm clubs were members of the South Atlantic League.

Perez spent part of 2009 and all of 2010 with Lake County.

Brantley and Perez are expected to continue their rehab assignments this weekend in Akron. Brantley shared after the game that he needs to feel 100 percent every day before he returns, specifying that the games are serving as a spring training for him while he works to “get [his] baseball legs underneath [him] and have quality at bats”. He otherwise avoided any artificial time tables to return.

Perez, however, has remained much more optimistic about his prospective return to the Cleveland roster, where offensive production from the catcher position has been an ongoing concern for the club all season.

“I would say two weeks,” he was quoted about the time frame that he is looking at. “I feel great. I’m 100 percent now. I’m just trying to get back into baseball shape and build up my innings catching.

“I was worried about throwing because it was my right thumb that got hurt, but it feels good.”

Photo: Brittany Chay/The News-Herald

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