CLEVELAND -- Last week's Austin Kearns trade cleared the way for Michael Brantley to make his return to the Indians' outfield. But Brantley had to wait the required 10 days after getting optioned down to Triple-A Columbus before he was eligible to get promoted again. That 10-day period passed, and Brantley was officially added to the active roster before Friday's series opener against the Twins. Brantley arrived at the expense of right-handed reliever Jensen Lewis, who was optioned to Columbus for the fourth time this season. Brantley, 23, opened the season as the Tribe's starting left fielder, only to be sent back to Columbus two weeks later when Russell Branyan came off the disabled list, moving Matt LaPorta from first base to left.
After more than two months in the Minors, Brantley returned to the Tribe as a result of a thumb injury to right fielder Shin-Soo Choo. But when Choo returned from the DL, the outfield picture was crowded once again. Now, with Kearns sent to the Yankees, the Indians are expected to take a real look at Brantley these last two months of the season to determine if he can be counted on as an everyday option in the outfield next year. With Grady Sizemore done for the year after to knee surgery, Brantley is expected to man center and bat leadoff on a consistent basis from here on out. In 26 games in the bigs this year, Brantley, one of the players acquired in 2008's CC Sabathia trade with the Brewers, has batted just .157 with a homer, a double and seven RBIs in 102 at-bats. His numbers at Columbus have been a little more encouraging -- a .319 average, four homers, 13 doubles, two triples and 13 stolen bases in 67 games. The Indians hope consistent playing time in the Majors will allow him to settle in. Brantley, after all, showed promise when filling in for an injured Sizemore last September. As for Lewis, this is technically the second time he has been optioned out this week, but the first time the move became official. Lewis actually flew to Columbus from Boston on Monday after being told he was optioned to make room for starter David Huff. But when catcher Carlos Santana and designated hitter Travis Hafner were placed on the disabled list Monday afternoon, Lewis was told to come back to Boston. He appeared in that night's game, threw a pitch behind the back of Adrian Beltre, igniting a benches-clearing fracas, and was ejected and later fined.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.