As the Cleveland Indians continue to hold tightly to their spot atop the AL Central, you could tell both the team and its fans were holding out hope for a major boost coming just around the corner. Michael Brantley, easily one of the team’s best hitters, has been attempting to come back from a shoulder injury all season long, and always seemed to be a couple rehab starts away from doing so. His getting healthy enough to rejoin the team would be an unbelievable spark, one you’d think would be big enough to ensure the Tribe could certainly clinch a playoff spot.
As we all know, hindrances have been occurring on an almost monthly basis as Brantley tried to recover. He’s made only eleven appearances this season, and has struggled to swing a bat consistently without pain all year long.
Yesterday, more bad news came when the Indians announced Brantley was dealing with a “recurrence of right shoulder symptoms while progressing through hitting activities late last week.” Team president Chris Antonetti added surgery may be a “possibility,” but other options are being explored.
If I were to advise Cleveland at this point, I would suggest putting a hold on the search for additional routes to take. Instead, I’d say it’s time to officially shut Brantley down for the year.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m in no way suggesting Brantley can’t help this team. That the Indians have made it this far without the 2014 MVP candidate is astounding, and you can’t help but wonder how far they could go with him added back to the lineup.
But, let’s recap how Brantley’s season has gone to this point.
He aimed to be ready for Opening Day, but eventually wasn’t recovered enough to do so. His debut finally came on April 25. By May 9, he was gone, back to the DL due to setbacks in his recovery.
All season long, Brantley has been unable to go more than a few days without feeling pain in his shoulder. Upon further examination, it appears he’s dealing with symptoms of chronic biceps tendinitis. Based on how things have gone so far this summer, it’s incredibly difficult to believe more rest is going to do the trick.
This is why Cleveland would be better off closing the door on his potential return for 2016. He’s gone through rehab since November and recently had minor surgery to remove some scar tissue. Despite this, it’s almost mid-August and he still can’t swing the bat pain-free.
The continued string of bad news for Brantley indicates nothing but the fact he’s just not going to be 100% anytime soon. Rest and rehab have proven ineffective, and obviously if surgery is the route the Tribe takes, he’ll be shelved for good. However, as upsetting as that would be, it’s the best option for Cleveland in the long run.
While getting the surgery now would end his hopes of returning this season, it would also ensure he doesn’t risk further damage during continued attempts to help his team in 2016. At this point it just makes more sense to get it done now in order to give him much more recovery time for next season.
Yes, it’s unfortunate the Indians’ best option is putting a halt to Brantley’s comeback attempt. However, it isn’t as if the Tribe is pinning all hopes for a playoff berth on his return. The Indians have put forth a strong season to this point, and can continue to do so without risking the health of one of their best players.