ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.: Russell Branyan has rediscovered his power stroke, hitting four home runs in the first six games of the Indians' eight-game trip. But it's uncertain how this will impact his playing time.
When he was signed early in spring training, manager Manny Acta said that Branyan ""would get most of the at-bats at first base.''
But it soon became apparent that Branyan's herniated disc would prevent him from enduring normal spring training activities and force him to begin the season late. He did not join the club until April 20, and even now does not feel he has fully caught up with everyone else.
Nevertheless, Branyan wants to play every game, even though he knows that is unlikely.
""When I signed here, they told me I would play against certain left-handers and not play against others,'' he said. ""Personally, I'd like to play every day.''
Left-right issues remain, especially in light of the fact that the Tribe has a right-handed first baseman on the roster. And not just any righty. Matt LaPorta is one of Cleveland's brightest prospects, and the club needs to let him get started on his major-league career.
Even if Branyan sat on the bench against every left-hander, he would get most of the at-bats at first base. And it appears that Tribe officials are serious about giving him playing time against at least a few lefties.
But there is another problem: trying to ensure that his back does not become a hindrance.
""I don't know about playing every day,'' Acta said this afternoon. ""That could be his goal, and that's great. But we don't know if his back would allow him to do that. It doesn't do us any good if we play him every day for a week and then we lose him for the season.''