CLEVELAND — The Indians gambled when they exercised an $11 million option on oft-injured left fielder Michael Brantley in the offseason.
Both sides are cashing in.
“We were betting on him,” manager Terry Francona said of Brantley, who has proved again that when healthy he is one of the game’s best pure hitters. “We saw him firsthand, the work he was putting in to be healthy. I pulled him aside (Sunday), though, and I said, ‘You take a minute and take this in because you spent so much time back there working.’ He was miserable and now he’s an All-Star again. That’s pretty special.”
“I feel like I’m doing pretty well so far, so hopefully they made a good decision, right?” said Brantley, whose .306 batting average through Sunday ranked eighth in the American League, while his 19-game hitting streak accounted for the longest in the majors. “At the same time, it’s a blessing to be out there. It’s the hard work that I put in. It’s the confidence that they had in me that I was going to be able to come back, stay on the field, produce at a high level and impact this club.
“So far, so good. We’ve got a long way to go still and we’ve got a postseason to hopefully run through and we’ll see what happens then.”
For the second straight season, Brantley will be joined by four teammates at the All-Star Game, including Francisco Lindor — a rising superstar who Brantley has mentored since Lindor arrived in the majors during the middle of 2015.
Lindor affectionately calls Brantley, “Daddy.”
“He’s a young kid that was coming up and I just wanted to do whatever I could to help him out, because veterans did that for me,” Brantley said. “So you kind of pass it down — anything that I could. Any questions that he has and I give him the best answer I could.
“But I hope I’m not a dad, yet. I mean, I have kids, but he’s a little old to be my son.”
There’s no doubt Francona feels like a proud papa when it comes to the All-Star representatives — Brantley, Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer.
“Ya know, back six years (ago) when I came here in the winter, I remember that first press conference I said something about, if you’re an Indians fan, I wanted people to walk with their chest out and be proud,” Francona said. “These are five guys that, they’re really good, they do it the right way and they’re great people.
“And it’s not done with smoke and mirrors and it’s a one-and-done. These are now guys that are repeating. They’re All-Stars. And the fact that we got five, you can do the math. There’s 30 teams and probably 60 spots, so not every team’s getting five. So it’s pretty cool.”
“It’s a great group of guys that we have going,” Brantley said. “It’s an honor. It’s a blessing. And I don’t take it for granted. I’m very fortunate and blessed to be in this situation and very appreciative of all the votes.
“There’s a lot of bumps in the road, a lot of highs, a lot of lows. You just kind of sit back when it’s done and just kind of embrace it. It’s not every day you get to go put on an All-Star uniform.”
Andrew Miller (right knee inflammation) threw a 29-pitch bullpen session Monday at Progressive Field.
“(Pitching coach) Carl (Willis) said every one’s been better,” Francona said. “I think this is his fourth one, and every one’s been better.”
Miller, who will not be activated until after the All-Star break, is scheduled to throw from the mound Wednesday. Francona said Miller would throw again Saturday, possibly facing some hitters in a simulated game with Double-A Akron.
The left-hander, who has made only 17 appearances, has been sidelined since May 26 in the midst of his second trip to the disabled list this season.
** Fellow lefty Tyler Olson (right lat strain) also threw a bullpen session and, according to Francona, is close to leaving the injured list, which he has been on since June 17.
Triple-A Columbus catcher/DH Eric Haase was named International League player of the week, hitting .346 with two homers, four doubles and eight RBIs.
Haase, a seventh-round draft pick in 2011, was batting .235 with nine homers and 40 RBIs in 76 games for the Clippers through Sunday.
- Lindor joined Hall of Famer Lou Boudreau as the only shortstops in franchise history to be selected to three straight All-Star Games.
- Ramirez is the first Indians third baseman elected to start in consecutive All-Star Games since Al Rosen in 1953-54.
- Kluber is the first Cleveland pitcher to be selected to three straight All-Star Games since Doug Jones from 1988-90, and he is the first starting pitcher to accomplish the feat since Sam McDowell was named to four straight from 1968-71.