CLEVELAND -- Russell Branyan said the other day that he feels physically ready to join the Indians, and the team agreed. That's bad news for rookie left fielder Michael Brantley. As expected, Brantley is headed back to Triple-A Columbus to make room for the veteran Branyan. The move was originally anticipated to take place by Opening Day, but the herniated disc in Branyan's lower back did not cooperate with that plan.
Now that Branyan has gotten a few games in the Minors under his belt, the Indians are planning to activate him from the 15-day disabled list before Tuesday's series opener against the Twins at Target Field. Branyan will be the Tribe's regular at first base, while Matt LaPorta will begin seeing time in left field. Branyan appeared in four games for Columbus and two for Double-A Akron on his rehab assignment, batting a combined .273 (6-for-22) with two doubles, one RBI and two runs scored. "I asked [the Indians] what kind of reports they've been getting from the coaching staffs [at Columbus and Akron] and the rovers, because they get a detailed report on a daily basis," Branyan said Saturday. "All the reports have been good." Branyan, however, did not do was play consecutive games in the field. He told reporters he was expecting to do so Monday and Tuesday, so Monday's announcement was somewhat surprising, from that standpoint. The decision to demote the 22-year-old Brantley, on the other hand, was not a surprise. Sizzling at the plate in his September callup last year, he had been laboring this time around. Brantley was batting .156 (5-for-32) with one double, three RBIs and four runs scored in nine games and had two hits in his past 22 at-bats. He had a strong spring camp to win the Indians over, but their first inclination had been to send him down for more development time and to delay his service clock. Brantley, a prized acquisition in the 2008 CC Sabathia trade with the Brewers, did not have a dominant year at the Triple-A level in '09, as he batted .267 with a .711 OPS. Branyan, 34, is coming off a career year in Seattle, where he hit .251 with 31 homers and 76 RBIs in 116 games for the Mariners. He did not play the last month of the season because of the back problem. This is Branyan's fourth stint with the Indians' organization, which drafted him in the seventh round of the 1994 First-Year Players Draft. He was signed to a one-year deal with a $2 million guarantee and a 2011 club option.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.