Brantley to miss opener

Published 2:40 am Monday, March 28, 2016

GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) — Indians outfielder Michael Brantley will not be in the lineup on opening day despite making major progress following offseason shoulder surgery.

Brantley had targeted the April 4 opener against Boston as his return date. However, manager Terry Francona said Sunday that Cleveland’s best all-around player is not quite ready and will not be in left field on opening day.

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“We will let this thing calm down a little bit, then ramp him back up,” Francona said. “He’s not going to start the season with us as our starting left fielder. He will certainly travel with us. So if that’s the case, let’s give him a chance to be healthy for the whole year.”

Brantley, who underwent surgery in November, reported some soreness in his right shoulder after playing in only two exhibition games. He will continue to rest without baseball activities for the time being.

There was no timetable for when Brantley will be able to start.

The Indians also released outfielder Will Venable and reliever Joe Thatcher.

The 28-year-old Brantley had been expected to be out six months following surgery but he made a quicker-than-expected recovery, and he and the Indians were hopeful he might be ready for the start of the season.

Francona said outfielders Marlon Byrd, Collin Cowgill and Robbie Grossman have been told they are still in the running for a roster spot.

“We know there is anxiety but we just can’t tell them until we know,” Francona said. “Byrd told us he was ready to play when he signed, and he was.”

Byrd signed a minor league contract on March 17. He’s hitting .467 with five doubles in 15 at-bats in five games.

Rajai Davis signed a major league contract in December. Indians rookie Tyler Naquin was told on Friday that he made the opening-day roster.

The Indians plan to carry five outfielders.

Venable signed a minor league contract with the Indians on Feb. 26, right after Major League Baseball suspended outfielder Abraham Almonte for 80 games after he tested positive for a banned substance.

Venable hit .133 this spring in 13 games.

“We try to gauge where guys are by history, resume and health,” Francona said. “We just told him there are guys ahead of him. It doesn’t mean we don’t think he can play. He called his agent and would like to explore some things.”

Thatcher signed a minor league contract in December. The 34-year-old lefty pitched seven games this spring, giving up one earned run in 6 2/3 innings.

“Joe did exactly what he was supposed to do. We don’t have the ability to carry a situational lefty,” Francona said.

Left-handed pitcher Ross Detwiler, who was signed to a minor league contract in December, was told he made the team.

“For now he will be in the bullpen,” Francona said. “He committed early. It seems like every outing he’s gotten better. I told him that he would be a starter sometime in the future.”

Detwiler has appeared in seven games this spring, allowing three earned runs in seven innings. Danny Otero and Kyle Crockett were told they are still in the mix for bullpen jobs.