CLEVELAND – Michael Brantley returned to the lineup Wednesday after missing four games with a sprained left ankle. He is expected to finish the year as the Indians’ starting center fielder and leadoff hitter, with his spot in the batting order potentially carrying over to next season.
“I have confidence that he should be able to do that down the road,” Acta said of Brantley batting first. “He’s a guy who takes pitches and can handle lefties and righties. That along with speed, he’s suited for that kind of job.”
Brantley, who is filling in for an injured Grady Sizemore in center, didn’t even look as though he was suited for the big league level during his first two stints with the Indians this year.
But in his latest spell in Cleveland, which began Aug. 7, Brantley has been a different player, at least at the plate — .327 (16-for-49) with 12 runs, two home runs and seven RBIs in 12 games through Tuesday.
“He’s flying high right now in confidence,” Acta said. “He has swung the bat really well this time around. At the beginning of the year it was more about whether he was here to stay and whether he belonged. That probably played a little bit into his head. I think now he knows he’s here to stay.
“The confidence is there. He’s made some adjustments with his swing and the results are there so far.”
Brantley has been a solid defender in all three of his stints with the Indians, which is why Acta has given some thought to moving Sizemore, a two-time Gold Glove award winner, to left field, if he is limited at the start of next season by surgery to his left knee.
“I like him (defensively),” Acta said of Brantley, who entered Wednesday with one error in 38 games for the Indians. “He’s a very good athlete and he’s effortless out there. He’s got a good enough arm for a center fielder. He’s fundamentally sound.”
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