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Indians OF Michael Brantley still confident in return from frustrating process

By Ryan Lewis Published: July 26, 2016

At this point, Bill Murray might end up playing left field for the Indians.

Rehabbing outfielder Michael Brantley spoke again on Tuesday, saying he’s frustrated by the process but still hopeful he can take the necessary steps to return to the lineup.

It’s the Indians’ own version of Groundhog Day. Though, rather than the charming 1993 flick starring Murray, it’s the delayed return of a key piece to the Indians’ lineup and a potentially significant boost to their postseason chances.

Brantley has tried to ramp up his hitting activities three times, only to be repeatedly shut down. Last week, Brantley underwent an outpatient procedure to remove scar tissue in his surgically-repaired shoulder. He’s also missed all but 11 games this season and has received two anti-inflammatory shots and multiple opinions.

Brantley has again resumed hitting activities after resting for a couple days following the outpatient procedure. But after several setbacks, the Indians are still waiting for him to be able to return and then stay in the lineup for longer than a week or so.

“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. “I’m just going to keep working hard and keep pushing to get back and taking the necessary steps that I need to take.”

Brantley added he’s “very confident” he can still make a significant impact on the 2016 Indians, though there remains only about two months left in the regular season.

“I know the players, the staff, the upper management, they all believe in me that I can come back and contribute in a positive way. I do as well,” Brantley said. “I'm taking every necessary step behind closed doors, stuff that people don't see, tracking balls, getting my mechanics down, doing any drills I can that are non taxing to make sure that my body is ready to go once I come back.”

He reiterated he doesn’t feel he or the club rushed his return. Once he felt good enough to return, he did, though he didn’t respond in the way he hoped. In the past couple weeks, he hasn’t been able to play back-to-back days, a key milestone in his recovery.

“I listened to my body. I felt good. I said it last time. I was feeling great,” Brantley said. “Some things come up. It's very frustrating at times, but at the same time, you have to take what the cards give you. It's a setback, yes, but it's only going to make me stronger as a baseball player and stronger as a person. And just being a better teammate from the dugout and looking in."

So Brantley will continue to try to work back to where his shoulder can withstand the extended volume. And the Indians will wait to hear some new feedback beyond the kind that’s made for a frustrating season for one of the better left fielders in baseball.

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Indians promote top two prospects Bradley Zimmer, Clint Frazier to Triple-A Columbus

By Ryan Lewis Published: July 24, 2016
Zimmer

The Indians’ top two prospects have been roaming the outfield together in Double-A Akron this season. Now, they’re each headed down I-71 to Columbus.

The Indians on Sunday promoted Bradley Zimmer and Clint Frazier to Triple-A, putting them one step closer to their major-league debuts. Zimmer and Frazier are the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked prospects in the Indians’ organization, respectively, according to Baseball America and other scouting services.

Zimmer this season is hitting .252 with a .370 on-base percentage, 14 home runs, 20 doubles, six triples, 31 stolen bases and 53 RBI. He struggled for much of the season until he worked with RubberDucks hitting coach Tim Laker on narrowing his stance. He also loosened his hands and with those changes found quick results. In July, Zimmer hit .324 with a .418 on-base percentage, two home runs, four doubles, four stolen bases and nine RBI.

Frazier has had a more consistent season in his first year at the Double-A level, hitting .278 with a .357 on-base percentage, 13 home runs, 25 doubles, 48 RBI and 13 stolen bases. He’s also been working in left field to allow him to play either corner outfield position.

Zimmer and Frazier have each had their names floated in trade rumors as the Indians look to add a relief pitcher and possibly a bat prior to the non-waiver trade deadline on Aug. 1. For now, their trip through the minor leagues continues in Columbus.

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Indians OF Michael Brantley has scar tissue removed from shoulder, shut down until early next week

By Ryan Lewis Published: July 22, 2016

Indians outfielder Michael Brantley has had another setback, though it appears this one might only cost him about a week.

Brantley underwent an outpatient procedure on Friday to break up and relieve scar tissue that had built up in his surgically repaired right shoulder. Imaging of his shoulder revealed no structural damage. Indians head athletic trainer James Quinlan added that the doctors were “encouraged” with Brantley’s shoulder.

Brantley will rest through the weekend and is expected to resume baseball activities early next week.

“The fear is when you get tested that extensively, that you can almost find something on anybody,” Indians manager Terry Francona told reporters in Baltimore. The fact that they didn’t is really good news. Now, it’s just going to be a matter of days until he starts again. I know he’s frustrated. We ask our players to do the same thing all the time: Do your best. He kind of goes above and beyond. I think we’re hopeful.”

The hope had been that Brantley could play in back-to-back rehab starts for the RubberDucks last weekend, but the Indians’ trainers pulled him before Saturday’s game. He played seven innings on Sunday before again being shut down.

The Indians still have no timetable for his return.

Back up

Cody Anderson is being recalled to the majors once again.

Anderson will begin his sixth stint with the Indians this season, as he takes the place of relief pitcher Joe Colon, who is being placed on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation, retroactive to July 19.

The Indians continue to envision Anderson as a long-term starting pitcher, though for now he’ll provide multi-inning relief in the bullpen.

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Indians in trade talks involving Milwaukee Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy, per ESPN report

By Ryan Lewis Published: July 20, 2016

The Indians are one of several teams that will be looking to add a reliever prior to the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline in search of help in the bullpen. They’re now also connected to one of the game’s best offensive catchers.

The Indians have engaged in discussions to acquire Milwaukee Brewers All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy, per ESPN’s Buster Olney.

Lucroy, 30, is in the last year of a five-year contract with the rebuilding Brewers, though his deal includes a club option for 2017 valued at a reported $5.25 million. A two-time All-Star, Lucroy is often among the better offensive catchers in baseball. This season he’s hitting .305 with a .362 on-base percentage, 12 home runs, 16 doubles and 45 RBI. Per FanGraphs, he has a wRC+ of 123 in 2016 and a career mark of 111.

The Indians have struggled to receive any consistent offensive production from the catcher position this season. Yan Gomes, hitting .165, has struggled through the worst slump of his career and recently landed on the disabled list with a separated shoulder. He’s expected to miss 4-to-8 weeks.

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Indians C Yan Gomes out 4-to-8 weeks with AC joint separation; Roberto Perez activated

By Ryan Lewis Published: July 18, 2016

The Indians will be without Yan Gomes for the next month or two.

Gomes was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Monday with an AC joint separation in his shoulder. He’s expected to mis 4-to-8 weeks.

Gomes became tangled running to first base in Sunday’s game in Minnesota and came down on his right shoulder. He had to be carted off the field.

The good news for the Indians is that his knee, which appeared to be twisted when he stepped on first base, checked out fine. It also appears as though he will avoid surgery.

Gomes has had an abysmal season at the plate, hitting .165 with eight home runs and 32 RBI. Recently, he had run into a wall of bad luck, lining out multiple times in Minnesota despite making hard contact.

While he wasn’t giving the Indians anything offensively, his work behind the plate and with the pitching staff had been a valued asset.

In his place, the Indians activated Roberto Perez from the 60-day disabled list. Perez has been out with a broken right thumb since he injured it April 30 and underwent surgery on May 6. Perez could likely start for many teams and his presence as the backup has been thought of as a quality insurance policy. That will now be put into place as it was last season when Gomes hurt his knee early in 2015.

Perez and Chris Gimenez will handle the catching duties with Gomes on the disabled list.

The club also called up left-handed reliever Kyle Crockett and sent pitcher Cody Anderson back to Triple-A Columbus.

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Indians OF Michael Brantley goes 0-for-3 in rehab start for Double-A Akron, ‘felt OK’

By Ryan Lewis Published: July 17, 2016

Indians outfielder Michael Brantley had a mostly uneventful day in his second rehab start with Double-A Akron on Sunday, his second appearance in the last three days.

Brantley played seven innings and went 0-for-3 at the plate, hitting routine ground balls each time. On the third, he reached on an error and later scored. He didn’t see action defensively in left field.

“I felt OK,” Brantley said. “I would have liked to get a couple more hits, that’d be nice. But getting the repetition down is important.”

Brantley was originally expected to play on Saturday after going 0-for-4 Friday night, but the trainers pulled him from the lineup. He’s still waiting until he can play back-to-back days, a key milestone in his recovery.

“It wasn’t my decision,” Brantley said of not playing Saturday. “My decision was to tell them how I feel every day and go by them like an everyday process. I felt OK, we just skipped a day.”

Brantley, along with Indians manager Terry Francona and the club, have used the word “excited” for his progress in his third attempt to stick in the everyday lineup.

“[It’s] more how I’ve responded every day waking up,” Brantley said. “I think that’s one of the biggest things for recovery time. That’s one of the things I kept fighting with [the first two times]. Just to be able to play baseball every day is very important.”

Brantley will still likely have multiple rehab appearances to make before he can return to Cleveland. Moving forward, his schedule is unclear and will continue to be updated on a day-to-day basis.

For now, the wait for a key piece in the middle of the Indians’ lineup continues.

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Indians place RP Tommy Hunter on DL, recall Cody Anderson, trade Ross Detwiler to Oakland

By Ryan Lewis Published: July 17, 2016

The Indians on Sunday placed relief pitcher Tommy Hunter on the 15-day disabled list and recalled Cody Anderson from Triple-A Columbus.

Hunter, per the club, is beginning his second stint on the DL with a non-baseball injury, retroactive to July 10. This year he has a 3.74 ERA with 17 strikeouts in 21 2/3 innings pitched.

Anderson gives the Indians’ bullpen some insurance as someone who can throw multiple innings for the time being. He has a 7.48 ERA this year as he’s tried to get back to where he was in 2015.

The Indians also announced that they have traded left-handed pitcher Ross Detwiler to the Oakland A’s for cash considerations. Detwiler will report to Triple-A.

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Indians mailbag on the trade deadline, Roberto Perez, the lineup and hot dog races

By Ryan Lewis Published: July 16, 2016

The Indians are beginning their push for the postseason in Minnesota this weekend following the All-Star Game festivities in San Diego.

They entered the break with a commanding 6.5-game lead in the American League Central division, a stark contrast from the previous few years in which the Indians had to fight and claw their way back into the race with a hot second half.

"I don't want to get too carried away, because we're still playing, and nobody has a crystal ball,” said Indians manager Terry Francona just before the break. “But, we've played ourself into a position where every single game we play from now on is fun as hell. And I don't doubt our guys will embrace it and see how good we can be. That's the whole idea. Nothing changes. We just don't have a huge hole to dig out of. That doesn't make any game less important. It makes it kind of more fun.”

Now, to the mailbag. Thank to those who submitted questions, especially this time around, as Florida, California, and Colorado were all represented. This will appear every few weeks. You can always submit questions via email to rlewis@thebeaconjournal.com or on Twitter to @RyanLewisABJ. Just include your first name, hometown and question.

Who should the Tribe be targeting to help their bullpen? How about Tony Cingrani (Reds) or highly-rated prospect Blake Snell (Rays)? — Bob, Boynton Beach, Florida (formerly Tallmadge)

Just about every contender could use back-end bullpen help, so the market could be busy. Of those two you listed, Cingrani is probably a better fit, though while the Reds could always use young assets these days, Cingrani is under club control through the 2019 season. They might not be in a rush to deal him. Snell would likely come with a hefty price tag. Many teams will be calling the New York Yankees to test the waters for Aroldis Chapman or Andrew Miller, two of the best relievers in baseball. Chapman is an impending free agent, while Miller makes $9 million a year through 2018. The Braves could have been looking to move Arodys Vizcaino, though he just landed on the disabled list. The Brewers have two relievers, Will Smith and Jeremy Jeffress, who could help a contending bullpen, but both are under control through 2019 as well. All of the above could be had, but matching the asking prices is the question.

When catcher Roberto Perez is eligible to come off the DL do you envision him staying in Triple-A Columbus with catchers Yan Gomes and Chris Gimenez at the ML level? — Johnny, San Diego

Francona said recently that the Indians would prefer to have a tough decision rather than have one of them falter and make the decision easier. It looks like they’ll have a tough decision, barring something unforeseen. Perez would be starting for most teams and is a real asset as the backup to Gomes. Gomes has struggled and now is having a pretty crazy stretch of bad luck at the plate, but his management of the pitching staff has remained solid. Gimenez has been a key factor behind Trevor Bauer’s resurgence. It’d be tough for the Indians to take either out of a regular rotation, and Perez does have minor-league options remaining.

What will the plan be with Abraham Almonte once Michael Brantley returns? — Michael, Akron

It’d be an easy fit to see Almonte sent down to Triple-A Columbus once Brantley can return to the lineup. Almonte does have an option remaining and has struggled since being reinstated from a failed drug test, including two mental mistakes that proved costly before the break. That would also allow the bullpen to stay in-tact, and the Indians would have Brantley, Rajai Davis, Lonnie Chisenhall, Tyler Naquin and Jose Ramirez available in the outfield.

With the hopeful return of Dr. Smooth, could you see the Tribe moving Lindor to the leadoff spot and go Lindor/Kipnis/Napoli/Brantley with the S/L/R/L matchup? Love everything Lindor brings but just not quite enough pop for the 3-hole. — Lee, Colorado

Well I don’t think the Indians or Francona are concerned with whether a particular spot in the lineup has enough power compared to league average. Carlos Santana is having a solid season and brings more value the higher up the lineup he is considering how often he gets on base. Lindor has continued to hit well in the No. 3 spot and stayed there for the most part when Brantley—who started nine games hitting cleanup—returned for 11 games earlier this season. Probably the most likely inclusion of Brantley into this lineup would be in the No. 4 spot again, allowing the top to remain as is and sliding Napoli down a spot.

If Brantley comes back as good as new, should the Indians still go get another bat? — Lorenzo, Cleveland

If the Indians have confidence Brantley will come back as good as new, then that would essentially be the needed offensive addition fans have been wanting. A healthy Brantley would be a bigger upgrade over just about all of the available options otherwise. The question is how much can you really expect from Brantley down the stretch? It’s cast a shadow over any clear move the Indians can make to the lineup. Lonnie Chisenhall’s great play in the last month or so has also cast doubt, as he’s played right to the level fans would hope for in their right fielder. Brantley’s shoulder might be the bigger factor.

Who is the most dynamic hot dog in the hot dog races? — Cam, Los Angeles

Finally, a serious question. The easy answer is Ketchup considering his propensity for hijacks and creative racing (cheating). But the most dynamic might be Onion. Her purse has become a real weapon this season, and when used at the right times, it’s led to quite a few victories. It also seems like Slider has a beef with Ketchup, which also opens the door for Onion and Mustard.

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Jose Ramirez, Carlos Carrasco lift Indians to 5-2 win against Minnesota Twins

By Ryan Lewis Published: July 16, 2016

The Indians began their post-break series against the Minnesota Twins with a 5-2 victory Friday night.

Tied in the sixth, Jose Ramirez—sporting a new haircut—singled to score Francisco Lindor and put the Indians on top 3-2. Ramirez also singled home Lindor in the fourth and entered today with a .377 average with runners in scoring position, fourth in baseball.

Mike Napoli added his 19th home run of the season in the eighth inning.

Carlos Carrasco (6-3, 2.49 ERA) threw 6 2/3 innings, allowed two runs on four hits and struck out three. Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen (19th save) each tossed scoreless innings.

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Podcast: Previewing the second half of the Indians' season and talking trade deadline

By Dan Kadar Published: July 13, 2016
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The Cleveland Indians begin the second half of their season sitting at 52-36, with a solid lead in the American League's Central Division and one of baseball's best pitching staffs. So what's next for the Tribe?

MORE: Ryan Lewis - The good and the bad from Indians’ first half

On this week's Akron Beacon Journal and Ohio.com podcast, Indians beat writer Ryan Lewis checks in with his thoughts on the team. The hot first half of the season is thanks in large part to a starting rotation featuring potentially two Cy Young Award candidates, a young star on offense in Francisco Lindor, several reliable veterans and a few unexpected contributions. But can the Indians sustain this pace? Ryan explains what we should expect the rest of the season.

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