Headlines, Indians

Indians ST: Positive news on Brantley, Kipnis, Naquin, A-Jax

AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

Rat-a-tat-tat. A baseball March is a slow procession that is more lullaby than fight song. Mild injuries are coddled. There is no rush to rehabilitation. At least, there should not be. Perhaps lessons learned, the 2017 Cleveland Indians Spring Training trauma ward is piling up some of the bigger names. Thankfully, the injuries are reported to be minor. Jason Kipnis (shoulder) and Tyler Naquin (foot) will be slowly worked back up to full bore. Michael Brantley (biceps tenodesis) and Austin Jackson (knee) will progress through the surgical rehabilitation only as fast as their body allows them to move through the process. Still, good news on long-term outlook this time of year is all one can ask despite the worries accompanying any nagging ache or pain.

Michael Brantley
Michael Brantley made waves last spring when he announced he would eschew his original timetable and push to be ready for Opening Day. He swung earlier than projected necessary and pushed himself with the best intentions of leading the ballclub to new heights that he knew they were ready to obtain. One cannot rush a shoulder rehabilitation though as Brantley and the Indians found out. Brantley only played in 11 games in 2016 as he suffered setback after setback. Eventually, he required biceps tenodesis surgery in August.

The rush to return to the Tribe lineup has left, but the push to do so has not. Reports all offseason have indicated Brantley has been putting the work in throughout his rehabilitation process. However, he spent more time than originally prescribed on Giambi swings (non-contact) and off a tee. Only at the end of February did Brantley return to batting practice, and only on Monday did he hit in a simulated game off teammates Josh Tomlin and Dan Otero as reported by MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian.

The simulated game comes after taking back-to-back batting practice at around 100 swings per day. The hope is that he continues to be able to swing the bat pain free. A timetable for his return has not been released, nor should one be. It is refreshing that each step has been taken with the utmost care without any regard to keep to a specific date.

Francona said, “He has worked so hard. I wish people could actually see what he’s done, because it’s gone so far and above what you would expect somebody to do… If this ends up where he’s not healthy, there is nothing more that he could have done.”

Jason Kipnis
Jason Kipnis disappeared from the normal routine of Spring Training early with some mumbled talk of an achy shoulder but the team said it was not an actual injury. The Indians changed the prognosis to a strained rotator cuff, he was removed from all throwing programs, and he received a cortisone shot on February 26. Kipnis has continued to state that the injury is minor and the fact that it is Spring Training has allowed the rehabilitation to go slower.

The good news is that Kipnis has resumed some throwing activities and also has been taking part in both batting practices and the simulated game with Brantley on Monday. Even better news is that Francona has stated Kipnis is scheduled to make his spring debut on Thursday.

Austin Jackson
What was that other name in the tweet above making their debut on Thursday?

None other than the -once- mighty A-Jax! Jackson only played 54 games for the Chicago White Sox in 2016 before succumbing to a knee injury, and those games made up the worst season of his career in cumulative or rate statistics. He also is walking into a crowded outfield situation where he will have to fight to find an opening on the MLB roster. However, if Jackson can prove to be healthy, then he could be the short-term solution to center field the Indians are looking to find.

Time will tell, but making it onto the field is a positive first step.

Tyler Naquin
Among the outfielders fighting off A-Jax for the starting center field position is Tyler Naquin. After taking a foul ball off his foot on Sunday, there was some initial fear that he might have broken a bone. Fortunately, the prognosis came back a foot contusion (bruise).

The Indians have not released a timetable for his return quite yet, but it should not be an extended absence. Particularly as the Tribe looks to sort their outfield options for the initial 25-man roster.