Francona making Brantley's health a priority

Francona making Brantley's health a priority

ARLINGTON -- For the first month of the season, Indians manager Terry Francona plans on checking with left fielder Michael Brantley before exiting the ballpark for the night. Keeping Brantley on the field as much as possible is a priority, and communication will play a big role in that process.

Given the complicated nature of Brantley's past injuries, and taking into account how much time he missed last year, Francona wants to be smart with the workload out of the gates. If that means Brantley is available off the bench every few games, so be it.

"We're just trying to look at the big picture," Francona said on Wednesday. "I don't think any of us want to lose sight of the fact that he's had a long haul back. And once you bite off too much, you can't go back. So I think this approach is good."

Wednesday provided the first example of Francona's approach.

After playing in each of the first two games this season, Brantley was out of the lineup, but available as a pinch-hitter, on Wednesday. Cleveland has a scheduled off-day on Thursday, so the timing allows for two days of rest. But with Brantley trying to get into an offensive rhythm, back-to-back days off will not always be the way Francona handles his playing time.

Francona noted that Brantley could be out for some day games after night games, especially if a lefty is pitching for the opposition. There will not be a set schedule for Brantley's starts, though. Francona will simply discuss things with Brantley and the team's training staff, and make decisions about days off when it makes sense.

"We'll probably do this the first month," Francona said. "Again, having him two out of three, or three out of four healthy, is a heck of a lot better than not having him."

Brantley -- Cleveland's No. 3 hitter -- underwent season-ending surgery on his right biceps last August, ending a comeback that was filled with setbacks and only 11 Major League games played. Last year he was trying to return after having surgery on his right shoulder in November 2015. He got through this year's camp with no issues and made the Opening Day roster.

Francona wants to take steps to keep Brantley on the roster for as long as possible.

"He's such a good player," Francona said. "We'll just try to use good judgment. That's probably the best way I can put it."

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.