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Indians LF Michael Brantley goes 2-for-3 in Cactus League debut; Indians 14, Dodgers 5

By Ryan Lewis Published: March 20, 2017

The major test for Michael Brantley won’t arrive until the Indians see how he feels following extended sequences of consecutive games played. On Monday, he took a small step as a prelude to that bigger exam.

Brantley played in his first Cactus League game this spring, going 2-for-3 with two singles and an RBI in the Indians’ 14-5 win against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Brantley has logged some time in minor-league and simulated games this spring but hadn’t made it into a big-league spring-training game.

“That’s what you do all the rehab for and why you stick with the process is to be back out there with your teammates,” Brantley said. “I was able to do that today. Hopefully I continue to do that down the road.”

In the first inning, Brantley grounded a ball to first and reached on an error. In the second, he fouled off a couple pitches in an 0-2 count and then roped the 1-2 offering from Dodgers starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy to right field, scoring Erik Gonzalez from second base. In the fifth, again with two strikes, Brantley lofted another single to right, this one against left-hander Adam Liberatore.

“Every time he passes a hurdle, it’s hard not to get excited just because of what he means to us,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “But this was one. Hopefully he bounces back good. That’s probably the biggest thing. Because he feels good now. Just wants to see how he bounces back and see how he maintains his strength and all those things. But it’s hard not to get excited.”

Opening Day, or any other target date, is still not in the picture as a set timeline. Brantley and the Indians are continuing to be as cautious as possible without putting labels on his timetable. Brantley is expected to play on Wednesday and Thursday after the club’s day off on Tuesday.

“I’m one day at a time,” Brantley said. “I’m going to wake up tomorrow, feel great, come in here and do my rehab and work out and just get back on my feet and go from there. It’s one day at a time.”

The real test could come soon for Brantley as he and the club see how his shoulder responds to prolonged exposure to game speed. The back-to-back games later this week represent the next hurdle.

“You know, playing in a game isn’t the end of the [journey], but I’m excited for him, excited potentially for us,” Francona said. “We just have to temper that, knowing that today’s not the destination. It’s still part of where he’s going. But man, he’s come an awful long way. Everybody’s that been around him have been kind of raving about how he looks and he feels good. Heck yeah, we’re excited.”

Rehabbing Cookie

Starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco threw two “innings” in a minor league game Monday at the club’s facility in Goodyear. The first inning was cut short due to Carrasco’s pitch count after two outs.

Carrasco has been dealing with some right elbow soreness. He’s expected to start Friday’s Cactus League game against the Chicago Cubs.

Indians 14, Dodgers 5

Aside from Brantley’s positive debut, the Indians belted five home runs on Monday. Yandy Diaz, Adam Moore, Abraham Almonte, Bradley Zimmer and Daniel Robertson all went yard, all from the fifth inning on.

Diaz’s game was a bit of a microcosm of his current situation. He went 2-for-3 with four RBI but also booted a routine ground ball at third base for an error.

Trevor Bauer threw five innings, allowing three runs on seven hits, which included two home runs. He also struck out three.

“I think everything is going well,” Bauer said. “My curveball actually has a lot of good bite to it, which I’ve actually been really pleased with. Whatever, it doesn’t matter what the results of the at-bat are at this point, it’s about executing pitches. I’m happy with that.”

The bigger success for Bauer might have been his avoiding two come-backers up the mound, the second forcing him onto his back.

“I was going to do a ninja get-up but I figured I wouldn’t show anybody up,” Bauer joked.

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