Optimistic Brantley says rehab not mishandled

Left fielder talks to press for first time since Aug. 15 biceps surgery

Optimistic Brantley says rehab not mishandled

CLEVELAND -- Michael Brantley was running a little behind for the Indians' team picture on Tuesday. A little more than two weeks removed from right shoulder surgery, the outfielder was struggling to slide his belt through the loops of his pants, and laughing a little at himself in the process.

Tribe pitcher Josh Tomlin watched with an amused grin for a moment, but then stepped up and helped Brantley complete the task.

"What a great teammate, right?" said Brantley, whose right arm was in a large black sling. "Great teammate of the day award, so far."

Prior to Tuesday's game against the Twins, Brantley held court with reporters for the first time since the Aug. 15 biceps surgery that effectively ended his season. The left fielder spent the majority of this year attempting to come back from November surgery on his right shoulder, only to face a series of setbacks related to biceps tendinitis in the same arm.

Between the November and August operations, Brantley appeared in 11 games for the Indians, played 11 Minor League rehab games, consulted with five doctors, received two injections and underwent one minor procedure. His comeback started and stopped multiple times, because the biceps issue did not flare up until he built back up to the point of playing in games.

Brantley's terrific throw

Asked if he felt any aspect of his comeback was mishandled, Brantley was emphatic in his reply.

"Not at all," Brantley said. "I feel like I did everything in my power and so did the Cleveland organization. I felt great at times, and then at times I didn't feel so well. It's something that just happened. I'm not happy that it happened. I wanted to be out there and playing with my team, of course. At the same time, [these are] the cards that I was dealt. I understand that.

"But, I did everything within this organization that they asked me to do, and I know I gave it my all, myself. So, I don't think it was mishandled at all."

During the Aug. 15 surgery, Dr. Keith Meister and Dr. Mark Schickendantz detached Brantley's biceps tendon from the labrum and secured it to a different area of shoulder. After the surgery, the Indians announced that the previous labrum repair -- fixed on Nov. 9 by Dr. Craig Morgan -- remained intact and the rest of the outfielder's shoulder joint looked good.

The expectation is that Brantley should be recovered from the latest procedure in four months, with the goal of being healthy and ready for a normal Spring Training. Brantley said having the surgery this month, as opposed to waiting until the offseason, was the best approach with 2017 in mind.

"It's a four-month rehab, but at the same time, I have a little bit of extra just in case," Brantley said. "I don't have to rush it or anything to get back. My main goal is, when I come into Spring Training Day 1, I don't have any limited abilities. I want to be able to play from the time they say, 'Play ball.'"

In the meantime, Brantley said he has turned into a "superfan" for this season's Indians, who are in first place in the American League Central. The outfielder -- a Silver Slugger recipient and AL MVP finalist in 2014 -- added that he also tries to be a resource for his teammates when the Tribe is playing at home.

"Anything I can do in the dugout, in the locker room, after a game," he said, "anything I can do to ease somebody's mind or help somebody in a positive way to impact this team, that's what my role is."

Indians manager Terry Francona said he has appreciated how Brantley has handled the entire situation.

"A lot of times, when guys are hurt, whether it's real or imagined, there's a little bit of a wall that goes up," Francona said, "just because you're not going through all the stuff that everybody else is. For Brant, he's able to climb over the wall or it doesn't exist, and it's because of him. Not everybody can do that. He carries so much respect in that room, in all the rooms."

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.