Michael Brantley has only played in 11 games in 2016, and he has not seen the field since May 9. Ever since he returned ahead of schedule on April 25, fans have been optimistic that a shoulder injury he received late last season would not be a long-term issue. That does not appear to be the case. At least according to an ominous tweet from Yahoo! Sports columnist Jeff Passan that claims the All-Star outfield could miss "a significant amount of time" with the injury.
Last we heard any kind of official word on Brantley's condition he received an anti-inflammatory shot in the injured shoulder on May 17. At the time, there was no timetable for his return, and that still remains the case today. The thought was that he just needed time for a subacromial impingement to heal, but if Jeff Passan's sources can be trusted, it might be a lot worse than that.
To their credit, the Indians have played well without Brantley in left field. Jose Ramirez has played the bulk of his time in that position since Brantley's last trip to the disabled list. In total, he has played 26 games in left field this season, after only playing two games total in the outfield his previous three seasons in the majors. He has made his fair share of mistakes at the position so far, and it is still early to rely on defensive numbers, but he has only cost the team one run, according to defensive runs saved.
As a team, the Indians currently sit atop the American League Central, even without Brantley and Carlos Carrasco for several weeks. While Carrasco is now back into the rotation and looking as good as ever, we will all have to sit and wait for more on Brantley.
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UPDATE: Ken Rosenthal actually spoke with team president Chris Antonetti, who gave mostly the same answers we have heard since Brantley began his rehab. The same answer we heard just before he returned, and the same answer we heard shortly after he was put on the disabled list again.
Antonetti responded, "Nothing really new. We are focused on working with Michael to help him get to the point where he’s not only healthy…— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) June 6, 2016
"…but strong enough to make a meaningful impact on the balance of our season. We don’t have a clear timetable for that yet but are …— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) June 6, 2016
"…encouraged by progress he continues to make." Keep in mind: Not in #Indians’ interest to admit concern. Would compromise trade leverage.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) June 6, 2016
And, as Rosenthal pointed out, even if Brantley's shoulder has caught fire and is spewing sulfuric acid over anyone who comes within 10 feet of it, you do not just go out and admit it two months before the trade deadline when you could potentially be in talks for another outfielder.