Posted on August 10, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
Much of the 2016 season has been nothing but a series of setbacks for Cleveland Indians outfielder Michael Brantley, and it appears there has been another one. This time, the setback could make it impossible for him to return to the field this season to help out the AL Central leading Indians.
Brantley has been limited to 11 games this season due to a shoulder injury, seeing four different doctors and receiving two cortisone shots along the way. His most recent doctor visit was Monday in New York with Dr. Stephen O’Brien, who diagnosed the Cleveland outfielder with “chronic biceps tendinitis.” Brantley initially hurt his shoulder last season and underwent surgery in November to repair a labral tear. He has played in 11 minor league rehab games this season, and at times looked to be close to returning to the Indians. But with this latest diagnosis, his season is very much in doubt.
Surgery has not been ruled, according to Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti. The team would like to consult with all four doctors who have seen Brantley this year and come up with a treatment plan, although the team isn’t sure what that plan may entail. When asked specifically about surgery, Antonetti said: “It’s a possibility. How likely and what the exact nature of a surgery would be, that’s why we need to get all of the doctors together to figure out what their recommendation would be.”
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Brantley underwent surgery last month to treat scar tissue around his biceps tendon. He was starting to ramp up the intensity of his rehab last week in hopes of returning to the Indians, but he was shut down after the pain in his shoulder resurfaced. If Brantley’s doctors end up deciding he needs surgery, it could squash any hope of getting on the field in 2016, despite how hard he’s worked to rehab and work his way back onto the field.
“There is nothing more than anyone could’ve asked from Michael,” Antonetti said. “I know he’s been disappointed that he hasn’t been able to come back and impact the team the way he had envisioned, but the one thing we all know is it’s not for lack of work, effort, commitment and passion for getting back.”
Of course, the Indians are managing just fine without him. Cleveland currently leads the AL Central, holding a 3.5 game over the Detroit Tigers. However, the team did not add an impact offensive player at the trade deadline, in part because they hoped Brantley would be back at some point. The Indians did add Brandon Guyer to give their outfield more depth, as well as Andrew Miller to reinforce their bullpen, although a trade for Jonathan Lucroy fell through after Lucroy declined to waive his no-trade clause to come to Cleveland.
In a way, not getting Lucroy or another impact offensive player at the deadline has put added pressure on Brantley to return and make a difference down the stretch. The Indians have been able to survive and then some without him this year, but a healthy Brantley could be what puts them over the top in the American League. Unfortunately for the Indians, Brantley being able to return this season looks less and less likely.