Uncertainty on a potential return date surrounded Michael Brantley this winter, but spring has brought a new -- and promising -- clarity.
Brantley, who underwent surgery in November to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder, was cleared to take on-field batting practice as early as Friday. He has been hitting indoors in the batting cage in recent days.
While it's not a huge step in the right direction, it's still a step, and that's noteworthy after an offseason of questions. In December, a source told Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer that Brantley might not be ready until June following the shoulder procedure. The Indians and Brantley did their best to dispel the rumor, sticking to a timetable of late April or early May, but the uncertainty was enough to cast doubt on the 28-year-old's season.
It seems, though, that Brantley is indeed on schedule, if not ahead of schedule, with a few weeks left before Opening Day. Indians manager Terry Francona acknowledged as much on Thursday but also expressed his cognizance of the fact that rushing the All-Star outfielder would be a mistake.
"Friday or Saturday he should be on the field for BP," said Francona. "That is kind of the target. He's been flying through everything so well; I'd be surprised if he doesn't.
"I just want to be careful. He's done so well. If he's not on the field (Friday or Saturday) everybody will say 'what happened?' He's so far ahead of where most people would be. A lot of that is attributable to how he's going about it."
If things continue to progress, expect to see Brantley back in the Indians' outfield before the calendar turns to May.
Spring training is in full swing, so be sure to keep refreshing Rotoworld's constantly-updating player news page for all the latest. And while you're at it, follow @Rotoworld_BB and @nate_grimm if you are on Twitter.
Schwarber Sidelined With Knee Soreness
Kyle Schwarber could miss a few days of Cactus League play in hopes that a knee issue won't cost him any time in April.
Schwarber left in the third inning of Thursday's game against the Mariners with left knee soreness. Schwarber told reporters he tweaked the knee while making a throw in the second inning.
He will be re-examined Friday, but early reports are that he could miss up to a week of spring action as a precaution.
"I don't think it'll be significant," he said. "Hopefully a couple days and I'll be back out there again."
March isn't a time to play through injury, so the 23-year-old and the Cubs are doing the right thing by playing it safe. Schwarber entered spring training hoping to show he could play both outfield and catcher, and when he gets back on the field, Schwarber said he intends to continue doing just that.
"I definitely feel I've been balancing the work pretty well," Schwarber said. "It just happens. It's part of the game. I have to let it rest a little bit and then get back in the mix of things."
Cabrera (Knee) Awaiting MRI Results
Asdrubal Cabrera is hoping an injury to his knee is similarly minor.
Cabrera left Thursday's Grapefruit League game against the Cardinals due to left knee soreness, suffered while running the bases in the first inning. Cabrera injured the knee tagging up from first to second base, saying he initially was going to slide but a poor throw caused him to alter his approach and go in standing up instead, tweaking his knee in the process.
Cabrera said it wasn't anything to worry about, but he had an MRI of the knee taken Thursday night just to be sure.
"It’s alright now," Cabrera said. "I’m walking fine and I’ve just got to go do my [MRI] to see what we’ve got. I don’t think it’s [anything] serious.”
The Mets certainly hope not after signing Cabrera to a two-year, $18.5 million contract this winter. The club may choose to hold onto Cabrera's backup, Ruben Tejada, a bit longer than they might have a few days ago while they await confirmation that Cabrera's injury is indeed minor.
Quick Hits: Giancarlo Stanton (knee) is tentatively scheduled to return to Grapefruit League play on Sunday. Mild right knee soreness has kept Stanton sidelined all week, but it doesn't sound terribly worrisome ... Edwin Encarnacion (tooth) is on track to make his Grapefruit League debut next week. A pulled tooth isn't likely to give EE any trouble as he gets ready for Opening Day ... Hyun-Jin Ryu (shoulder) played catch again Thursday, the fourth consecutive day he's thrown off flat ground. The next step could be throwing off a mound ... Rougned Odor (oblique) will attempt to take batting practice on Friday. Odor has missed the past few days with soreness in his right oblique, and the hope is that the ailment won't keep him out more than a few days ... Jhonny Peralta underwent surgery Thursday to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb, a procedure that will keep him out 10-12 weeks. Jedd Gyorko and Aledmys Diaz are the favorites to gain playing time in Peralta's absence ... An MRI of Yasmany Tomas' left knee Thursday showed no structural damage. Tomas has been held out of Cactus League action since last Friday due to lingering discomfort in the knee, but he should be back on the field shortly ... Billy Hamilton (shoulder) was scheduled to play catch on Thursday, a day after hitting off a tee. Soreness in his surgically repaired right shoulder has held him out of action over the past week, casting some doubt on his readiness for Opening Day ... Shawn Tolleson (back) threw a 30-pitch bullpen session Thursday. The Rangers' closer hadn't thrown from a mound since lower back spasms popped up a week ago ... Jung Ho Kang (knee) hopes to begin running the bases within the next week. Kang is ahead of schedule in his recovery from a torn meniscus and broken tibia suffered last September, and he could be back on the field by the end of next month if all goes right ... An MRI taken Wednesday of Cody Asche's sore right oblique revealed a Grade 1 strain. The infielder-turned-outfielder is likely looking at a 15-day disabled list stint to start the season ... After a week sidelined with shoulder soreness, Scooter Gennett was cleared to resume hitting Thursday ... Jarrod Parker received more bad news Thursday after he was diagnosed with a lateral right elbow impingement. Parker cut short his first live batting practice of the spring Thursday after feeling great pain in the elbow ... Jerad Eickhoff (thumb) will pitch three innings in a minor league game Saturday. Eickhoff suffered a small fracture in his right thumb three weeks ago, putting him behind schedule in the early weeks of camp ... Left-hander Randy Wolf retired Thursday ... A day after topping out at 80 mph during his Cactus League start, Jered Weaver was scheduled to undergo an MRI Thursday after complaining of neck tightness. Perhaps what he was feeling was a vaudeville hook around his neck after a brutal start the day before.