CLEVELAND (AP) — Indians All-Star Michael Brantley has made yet another comeback — at the perfect time.
The left fielder is on Cleveland’s AL Division Series roster against the New York Yankees after it appeared his season might be over because of an ankle ligament injury. Brantley missed 50 games after Aug. 8, when he got hurt while tracking a fly ball. But he worked his way back and is expected to be used in a pinch-hitting role in the series beginning Thursday night.
However, Brantley has been testing his ankle and it’s possible his role could expand and he could play in the field. He batted .299 with nine homers and 52 RBIs in 90 games, including .357 with a homer against New York this season.
When he got hurt in August, Brantley — and the Indians — feared he might be through for 2017. Instead, he was diligent with his rehab and made it back.
“Any time you get hurt, you always are concerned if you are going to get back, especially under a time crunch,” he said. “I’m just excited that so many doctors and trainers helped me get back to this situation and be a part of this.”
As for getting on the field, Brantley said Wednesday that was still possible.
“We’ll see how it goes,” he said. “It’s one day at a time. I tested pretty hard and everything has responded well and I’m very excited about that. We’ll see how it goes from there.”
Brantley missed the entire postseason in 2016 after undergoing shoulder surgeries. He played in 11 games during the regular season but then had to watch in October as Cleveland made it to the World Series without him.
Brantley is the son of former Major League Baseball player Mickey Brantley who starred at Catskill High School and later at Columbia-Greene Community College.
In this ALDS, Indians manager Terry Francona is carrying 11 pitchers, seven infielders, five outfielders and two catchers on the 25-man roster. The most notable omissions were relievers Nick Goody, Dan Otero and Zach McAllister, who appeared in a combined 158 games.
There were no major surprises with New York’s roster. Yankees manager Joe Girardi elected to go with 12 pitchers. He was forced to go to his bullpen early in the wild-card game when Luis Severino was chased in the first inning.
Severino is scheduled to pitch Game 4 if the best-of-five series goes that far.
NOTES: LeBron James hasn’t had to make a decision this big in years.
The NBA superstar planned to attend Thursday night’s playoff game between the New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians along with his Cavaliers teammates, who were at several postseason games a year ago when the Indians got to the World Series.
Back in 2007, James came to Progressive Field for a postseason game wearing a Yankees cap, which he flaunted during the game. He was widely criticized in Cleveland for the move, which came three years before his infamous decision to announce on national TV that he was leaving as a free agent for Miami.
James rooted openly in the playoffs last year for the Indians, speaking to the crowd before one game and flexing for fans in Game 7 of the World Series when Cleveland’s Rajai Davis hit a game-tying homer in the eighth inning.
Indians manager Terry Francona was reminded that James once pulled for the other side, but was certain he’s changed allegiance.
“I had not remembered that, but I do now,” Francona said, smiling before the series opener. “I’m hopeful that he won’t be (cheering for the Yankees). How’s that? I don’t think I need to be telling LeBron what to do, but I think he’ll be rooting for the Indians.”
Yankees Game 2 starter CC Sabathia, who spent eight seasons with the Indians, thinks James may be hiding his true feelings.
“I know he’s a Yankee fan,” Sabathia said. “But I think he has to put on a front for the city.”
Dwyane Wade promise to stay neutral. But the star guard, who recently signed with Cleveland after a season in Chicago, said he was eager for some off-the-floor time with his new teammates.
“I’m looking forward to the bonding,” Wade said. “I’m not cheering for one team to win over the other, but I love greatness. Anytime anybody does something great, you applaud them for it. You want to be in that environment. But the biggest thing for us is to be able to bond and support the city. The city, the players, they support you and I’m a part of this organization now, so anytime we get an opportunity to support, you definitely want to do that, so that’s what tonight is about.”