Michael Brantley had surgery in November to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder (that's his non-throwing shoulder), and it's been known since he went under the knife that he wouldn't be ready by Opening Day. What remans unclear even three months later is just how much of the season he's going to miss.
Having spoke with Brantley and Indians officials, Paul Hoynes describes Brantley's return date as "hazy," and suggests that Doc Smooth could be back in late April or early May. He adds that the team has been "encouraged" by Brantley's recovery.
The outfield options without Brantley aren't especially inspiring. Rajai Davis, Abraham Almonte, and Lonnie Chisenhall are the expected starters, and while that trio should provide above average defense, none of them are likely to provide anything better than average offense. Someone like Joey Butler might (or might not) provide more pop in the lineup, but not substantially more, and not without a defensive cost. Point being: Hurry back, Michael!
Brantley of course might need some time to get up to full speed once he's made his return, but even so, the sooner he's able to return, the sooner he can get back to full speed, and Brantley at 85% is still a better player than any of the team's other options.
MLB has wisely scheduled more off days than usual early in the season, so the Tribe will only have played 24 games through May 2. The next day the Indians will begin a stretch of 22 games in 23 days, included one series each each of the other four AL Central teams, plus the home-and-home four-game set against Cincinnati and road trips to Houston and Boston, expected by many to be the winners of their respective divisions. It would be great to have Brantley back in the lineup for those games, and him missing only 24 games wouldn't be so bad.