CLEVELAND -- Michael Brantley will once again be aiming to be ready in time for Opening Day.
On Tuesday, the Indians announced that their star left fielder underwent a 45-minute procedure to address the biceps tendinitis issues that have plagued him all season. Brantley is expected to make a full recovery in four months, which should put him on target to go through a normal Spring Training in preparation for the 2017 season.
"That's part of the reason we wanted to try to do it now," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "For a guy who hasn't played, he's pretty tired out, because he's given a lot to try and come back, and he's going to have to do that again. The good news is, if anybody's willing, he's the guy. He's about as conscientious as anybody you're going to find."
Updated injury timeline for Brantley, who is expected to make full recovery from latest surgery in four months. pic.twitter.com/v9bNnJnNGg
The surgery (biceps tenodesis) was performed by Dr. Keith Meister and Dr. Mark Schickendantz on Monday in Dallas, bringing an end to Brantley's attempts to come back from shoulder and biceps woes this year. During the operation, the doctors confirmed that Brantley's previous labrum repair remained intact and the rest of the outfielder's shoulder joint looked good, according to the Indians.
James Quinlan, the Indians' head athletic trainer, explained that the procedure involved cutting the biceps tendon and anchoring it to a different part of the shoulder. Quinlan noted that Brantley might be able to resume some baseball activities by November or December, adding that the goal would be to put the outfielder on pace to have a regular Spring Training regimen.
"We have to see how he responds to that early crank-up," Quinlan said. "But, yeah, that would be the goal."
Brantley originally underwent surgery on Nov. 9 to repair a labral tear, which was sustained during a diving catch attempt in a game against the Twins on Sept. 22 last season. Brantley progressed well enough during Spring Training to appear in a pair of Cactus League games, and he eventually came off the disabled list for an 11-game stint with the Indians between late April and early May.
Repeated setbacks created a sporadic comeback bid for Brantley, though.
Brantley would feel strong throughout his workouts and in batting practice, but then discomfort would flare shortly after he resumed playing in games. The left fielder sought multiple opinions on the matter, and he was eventually diagnosed with biceps tendinitis by Dr. Meister on June 21. At the time, Brantley and the Indians were still optimistic that he could be able to return in the second half this season.
"So many times, he'd get into the batter's box, like game situation, and that's when he would feel it," Francona said. "That's why it was kind of confounding. I think on a number of [occasions], we had him looked at by like three different people, just because he got so close. I think it was [difficult]. I was genuinely excited when he came back from Texas [after meeting with Dr. Meister in June]."
Now, the focus will shift to 2017.
The good news for the Indians is that the team has made its run to the top of the American League Central this summer without Brantley for the bulk of the campaign. Players such as Jose Ramirez and Tyler Naquin have stepped up in a big way, and free-agent additions like Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis have helped ease the potential burden of losing Brantley.
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. 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 Indians hope Brantley can return to that kind of form for next season.
"They care so much about him that it is a blow," Francona said of the team. "It's been one. Again, I'm not even talking about on the field. We're finding ways to get it done. That doesn't mean we don't miss him or don't care. We have no other alternative. But, I bet pretty much everyone to a man, they all really care about him."
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, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.