CLEVELAND — Left fielder Michael Brantley has returned to form and as a result is going back to the All-Star Game — something that didn’t seem possible at this point last season.
“There were some dark days and long nights, but the training staff, the doctors kept me positive,” said Brantley, who underwent two surgeries on a problematic right shoulder that limited him to 11 games last year and left his status in question. “I just kept working, just kept going after it. Nothing was guaranteed, not even coming out of spring training. I didn’t know if I was going to make the Opening Day roster, but I was lucky how everything paid off. The shoulder’s doing great and I’m very excited about it.”
Brantley, who entered Saturday batting .307 with five home runs and 36 RBIs over 64 games, earned organization-wide respect for his tireless rehabilitation.
All the hard work will pay off when he steps onto the field Tuesday in Miami.
“That will be one of the highlights. I’ll look forward to that, because this is the ultimate team guy,” president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said. “This is the guy who put in all those days when no one was looking, when it was really hard, away from the spotlight, he was in here trying to get back. Not only did he do his individual work, but at a time where we were having collective (postseason) success, it would have been easy for a guy to wonder why he wasn’t able to share in that and have woe-is-me attitude, and Michael in fact had the exact opposite.
“He took the approach that, ‘Hey, I’m going to embrace this time with our team and try to find a way to contribute and help us win.’ Even though he wasn’t on the field, he was a big part of our team last year. For a guy that’s put in the work with the mindset and mentality that Michael has, to see all of that work rewarded with on-field success and the recognition in the All-Star Game, there’s nobody more deserving to be there.”
Though he didn’t get to play with him until this season, reliever Andrew Miller recognized how much Brantley meant to the Indians when he was acquired at the trading deadline last year.
“I just saw how hard he worked and how badly everybody else wanted it for him,” Miller said. “You saw the way that people talked about him, how happy everybody was that he was a part of the clubhouse last year and the run that we had. Just hearing the guys that have been here for years with him, the way that they spoke about Michael and how much they appreciate how much work he was putting into it and looking forward to getting him back.
“I think this is a pretty special acknowledgement of how much work he’s put in, and well-deserved.”
Brantley finished fourth in All-Star fan voting — just outside of a starting spot — but was elected via player vote.
“It’s very special,” he said. “In 2014, I was voted in by the players as well. Just to have that recognition that I play the game the right way, that I have the respect from the other side, that you kind of work for ... play the game hard and kind of keep your head down. Just play baseball the right way. It means a lot. I’m very thankful. Nothing comes easy in this game. Everything is earned.”
The Indians announced that manager Terry Francona was released from the Cleveland Clinic during Friday night’s game after undergoing surgery Thursday to correct an irregular heartbeat.
Francona, who is expected to return when the unofficial second half opens Friday, had been hospitalized since Tuesday.
The team said Francona was resting in his downtown Cleveland residence.
Shortstop Francisco Lindor entered Saturday batting just .222 in 36 games since May 29, but was 7-for-15 over his last three games.
“I’m just trying to get the barrel to the ball,” said Lindor, who was batting .256 with 14 homers and 43 RBIs over 83 games through Friday. “I thank the Lord for all I’m going through. It’s just a matter of time. I’m continuing to play the game right and work as hard as I can and eventually you see the results. I was seeing results for sure, but not as much.
“The last couple days, I’ve been fortunate enough to see the ball drop a couple times and I feel good. It’s just a matter of continuing to do the same thing day in and day out.”
- Carlos Santana was activated from the paternity list, with reliever Shawn Armstrong optioned back to Triple-A Columbus.
- Right-hander Danny Salazar (right shoulder soreness) is scheduled to make his next rehab appearance Tuesday for Class A Mahoning Valley.
- Cleveland’s rotation had posted an AL-low 3.21 ERA over the last 24 games through Friday, while limiting opponents to two or fewer runs in eight of the last 10 games.