Brantley to undergo season-ending surgery

Brantley to undergo season-ending surgery

CLEVELAND -- Michael Brantley did all he could to return to the field for the Indians this season. When the left fielder's season-long battle with right shoulder issues hit another snag this month, it became increasingly unlikely that he would be able to impact the club this year.

That became the reality on Saturday, when Indians manager Terry Francona announced that Brantley is scheduled to undergo season-ending surgery on Monday to address his shoulder and biceps problems. Dr. Keith Meister and Dr. Mark Schickendantz will perform the procedure at TMI Sports Medicine in Dallas.

The specific nature of the surgery, along with the timetable for Brantley's return, will be announced after the operation.

"All the work, it'll pay off somewhere," Francona said of Brantley's effort to return this year. "I don't think those things go unrewarded. I just think that he'll come back, and he'll find a way to be as good as ever. I firmly believe that, because I believe in him."

Brantley's pending surgery delivers a tough blow to the Tribe, which could have benefited from his bat down the stretch. That said, Cleveland has run to the top of the American League Central this season with only 11 games from their star left fielder. Jose Ramirez, Tyler Naquin and others have stepped up in a big way in Brantley's absence.

Getting a healthy Brantley back could have provided a boost, but the Indians are still optimistic about their chances of keeping their success going.

"We've basically played without him this year," Francona said. "So, we'll just keep playing. That's what we always do."

Across the 2014-15 seasons, Brantley hit .319 with 35 home runs, 90 doubles, 181 RBIs, 38 steals, 162 runs, more walks (112) than strikeouts (107) and an .876 OPS in 293 games for Cleveland. The outfielder was an All-Star in '14, when he also took home a Silver Slugger Award and finished third in balloting for the AL Most Valuable Player Award.

The shoulder issue first arose on Sept. 22 last season, when Brantley fell hard on a dive attempt in left field at Target Field. Dr. Craig Morgan performed surgery to fix a labral tear in Brantley's right shoulder on Nov. 9, and the outfielder hoped to be ready in time for Opening Day. That did not happen, but Brantley did progress well enough to come off the disabled list on April 25.

It has been a stop-and-go series of setbacks and steps forward in the months since that initial return. Brantley landed back on the DL on May 14 and has seen five doctors in an effort to determine the source of the lingering discomfort, which has tended to flare only after he progressed back to facing live pitching. Earlier this month, Brantley was back in the batting cage, hitting off a high-velocity pitching machine.

Brantley's apparent progress, followed eventually by tightness, created a challenge for the Indians and the many medical personnel who worked with him throughout the process.

"Part of the issue when it started to hurt him was when he'd get in the batter's box," Francona said. "And he was going to that machine and he was cranking it up. Like, you'd walk in there and see him hit and you're like, 'Man, he can play tonight.' But then, when he got off the live pitching is when he felt it.

"So, you can't just stop him and say rest, because then he could go through the whole winter and feel great, and then they start playing the games in Spring Training and it'd crop up again. That was a lot of the dilemma in this thing."

On Monday in New York, Brantley met with Dr. Stephen O'Brien, who diagnosed the outfielder with "chronic biceps tendinitis." Dr. Meister originally discovered the biceps tendinitis in a meeting with Brantley on June 21, when the outfielder was given a cortisone shot to help temporarily alleviate some discomfort. On July 22, Dr. Genin did a minor procedure on Brantley in Cleveland to break up scar tissue in the front of his shoulder.

"I don't want to get into it too much, because the medical people do it better," Francona said. "But at certain points, when he starts to get fatigued, it's almost like he gets a blister on the inside on one of those things. If you tell me how to stop that, I'll do it. I just don't know how to really do that. Sometimes, you go into somebody's shoulder, you go into somebody's knee, it's just, things happen."

Francona hoped Brantley would be back this year. After the outfielder's visit with Dr. Meister in June, the manager said he thought Brantley would be ready in 10 days.

Things did not worked out like Cleveland or Brantley planned, but Francona still feels the outfielder can overcome this entire episode.

"I get a front-row seat to see how hard he works," Francona said. "I just think he'll find a way to come back and be just as good as he ever has been."

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.