Brantley likely to play Opening Day for Tribe

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — The paperwork is not done, but the work has been completed by Michael Brantley. That is how Indians manager Terry Francona described the situation on Friday, when asked if the left fielder would be on the team’s Opening Day roster.

Brantley, who is coming back from a pair of surgeries to address right arm issues, will travel with the Indians to Texas for Monday’s season opener against the Rangers. Barring anything unexpected, Brantley should be on the roster and in the lineup for Cleveland.

“We don’t have to announce our roster [until Sunday],” Francona said. “But, it’s not like it’s going to be a big secret. We’re not trying to keep it a secret. I mean, we’re taking 25 guys and he’s one of them.”

In eight Cactus League games this spring, Brantley has hit at a .385 (10-for-26) clip with a pair of home runs for Cleveland. On Thursday, the outfielder completed a stretch of three consecutive games, marking the third time this spring that he played multiple games in a row. Each time, Brantley recovered with no issues.

One year ago, Brantley encountered setbacks with his right shoulder after advancing to the consecutive-games portion of his rehab. The left fielder underwent right shoulder surgery in November 2015, appeared in only 11 games last season and then was shelved after having right biceps tenodesis surgery in August.

Cleveland put Brantley on a program this spring to gradually build up the volume of his hitting, and he responded well to each benchmark along the way.

On multiple occasions, Francona has referred to Brantley as the “heart and soul” of the Indians. Earlier this week, the manager met with Brantley and discussed the outfielder’s comeback, and Francona told him to enjoy having all his work over the past 18 months finally pay off.

“It was kind of hard not to get a little moist in the eyes,” Francona said. “We’re proud of him. We’re happy for him. We’re happy for us. He’s such a good kid and he’s such a good teammate. He’s so much a part of what we want to do.”

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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