CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Michael Brantley’s seemingly lost season is now officially over.
Brantley will have season-ending surgery in Arlington, Texas on Monday, Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona announced on Saturday afternoon. More details of the upcoming procedure will be revealed soon.
The surgery, his third of any variety since last November, will be the 29-year-old’s second major operation in the last 10 months.
“Dr. [Keith] Meister and [Dr. Mark Schickendantz] are going to do the surgery,” Francona said. “When there’s a time to explain what they did and how they did it and all that, James [Quinlan] and the medical people will do that. But, that’s what we have.”
Brantley was seen by Dr. Stephen O’Brien at the Hospital of Special Surgery in New York City earlier this week, and it was confirmed that the left-handed hitter is experiencing symptoms consistent with chronic biceps tendinitis.
After a week of discussion and seeking more information, it was decided that surgery was the best course of action.
“Part of the issue — and I think I’ve said this — when it started to hurt him was when he’d get in the batter’s box,” Francona said. “And he was going to that machine and he was cranking it up. Like, you’d walk in there and see him hit and you’re like, ‘Man, he can play tonight.’ But then, when he got off the live pitching is when he felt it.”
For that reason, the Indians tried their best to remain responsible and fair to Brantley throughout the process. The club never tried to rush the outfielder through his recovery and were always careful to send him for most tests at the mere hint of any soreness or issues in the shoulder.
The rehab would only resume when everything checked out structurally fine in the problem area.
From there, progression was based nearly exclusively on how Brantley was feeling throughout the process. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a guaranteed full recovery in a convenient time frame when any type of surgery is involved.
“I’m not sure how you can eliminate [any risk of a setback],” Francona said. “The way I understand it… at certain points, when he starts to get fatigued, it’s almost like he gets a blister on the inside on one of those things. If you tell me how to stop that, I’ll do it. I just don’t know how to really do that. Sometimes, you go into somebody’s shoulder, you go into somebody’s knee, it’s just, things happen.”
The problems started when Brantley was forced to undergo off-season surgery on his right shoulder to repair a torn labrum on November 9. The left fielder originally injured his shoulder in the final month of the 2015 campaign while diving for a ball in the outfield.
After that, his long road to recovery featured setback after setback.
He managed to return for 11 games in late April, but persistent discomfort landed him back on the disabled list in May.
Brantley progressed through a handful of return attempts, and it even appeared the talented hitter was trending toward an activation at some point near mid-season, but once again, his recovery was knocked off course by pain in the shoulder.
After undergoing an outpatient procedure to remove scar tissue buildup in his right shoulder, Brantley worked through his recovery by hitting off a pitching machine in the batting cages.
He was still feeling “very confident” about a potential return in late July.
“It’s very tough, especially when you’ve had a couple setbacks and you think you have it figured out and you kind of get a little different twist,” Brantley said last month. “I’m just going to continue to keep working hard and keep pushing to get back and taking the necessary steps that I need to take.”
Despite Saturday’s bad news, Francona doesn’t feel the time Brantley put into his recovery was all for nothing.
“I guess I figure that all the work, it’ll pay off somewhere,” Francona said. “It may not be this season, but I don’t think those things go unrewarded.
“I just think that he’ll come back and he’ll find a way to be as good as ever. I firmly believe that, because I believe in him. I get a frontrow seat to see how hard he works and things like that. I just think he’ll find a way to come back and be just as good as he ever has been.”
Even without the talented outfielder, the Indians have managed to hold on to their lead in the American League Central. Additionally, the Tribe’s offense has performed better than anticipated without Brantley, entering Saturday’s game ranked second in the AL in runs scored (578), fifth in home runs (150) and first in stolen bases (92).
The continued offensive production throughout the lineup somewhat lessens the need to acquire another outfielder before the end of the month.
“I think they’re always keeping their eyes open,” Francona said of the front office. “But we’ve basically played without him this year, so we’ll just keep playing. That’s what we always do.”
After taking a foul ball to the right side of his head during Thursday’s game, Carlos Santana officially passed all of his concussion tests and was cleared to play on Saturday night.
Manager Terry Francona elected to keep Santana out of the starting lineup in the third game of the four-game series against the Los Angeles Angels, but admitted the switch-hitter would be available to pinch-hit if necessary.
“We’ll have him available off the bench, just thought a night wouldn’t hurt him,” Francona said. “But he’s doing terrific, so that’s good. He’ll play tomorrow and might pinch-hit tonight. But he was completely cleared and he feels great.”
After throwing a 15-pitch bullpen session featuring fastballs and changeups on Friday, Indians starter Danny Salazar is expected to throw a full session prior to Sunday’s game at Progressive Field.
Results of an MRI on his right elbow came back clean earlier this month, but Salazar landed on the 15-day disabled list with right elbow inflammation on Aug. 2. The right-handed had been bothered by some discomfort in his right elbow since just prior to the All-Star Break.
“Sometimes it’s not just a peace of mind,” he said. “Sometimes your elbow hurts. When you go out there, you know it hurts and sometimes your body — even though you’re trying to do something different — your body holds you back a little bit, so you feel pain-free. That’s what I think.”
If everything progresses properly, Salazar should be ready to rejoin the rotation when eligible to be activated from the DL on Aug. 17. With Thursday’s starter vs. Chicago currently listed as “TBD,” the righty could potentially slide into that spot next week.
“He’s doing fine,” Francona said. “When [it’s] his day to pitch, he’ll be ready. We’ll figure out when we want to plug him in and what we want to do behind him, things like that.”