Injured Cleveland Indians outfielder Michael Brantley is expected to begin batting in a cage this week, then taking batting practice on the baseball field in the following week, the team confirmed on Twitter Monday. Considering Brantley's timetable for returning to "baseball activities" was original sometime between April and May, this is potentially big news for Tribe fans.
Michael Brantley's journey back to playing baseball has been surprisingly absent of bumps in the road -- as far as we can see, anyway. Every step of the way he seems to have been ahead of schedule, whether it was himself saying he felt like it or manager Terry Francona echoing the sentiment. First, towards the start of spring training, he was taking simulated swings, then he began hitting off a tee, next he will begin batting in a cage, and then he is one step away from taking BP on a field again.
Michael Brantley will progress to cage batting practice this week; expected to begin BP on the field within a week. pic.twitter.com/6uBuz6Z0Q5— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) March 7, 2016
The 28-year-old injured his non-throwing shoulder on a diving attempt against the Minnesota Twins on September 22. He missed the final week of the season when the Indians put him on a two-week rehab program, but at that point surgery did not seem necessary. It was not until November 9 that the team decided to put him under the knife and they announced that he would miss five to six months, with an optimistic return date of Opening Day.
Maybe it's time to start getting a tiny bit optimistic if you are not already.