March 31, 2017

GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) Michael Brantley's long climb back could be over.

The Cleveland Indians left fielder will likely make the team's opening-day roster - and could start the opener - following a spring in which he slowly worked himself back into shape after playing in only 11 games last year.

Brantley will travel with Cleveland to Texas this weekend as the AL champions prepare to start the season Monday against the Rangers. Manager Terry Francona doesn't have to submit his roster until Sunday, but all signs are pointing to Brantley being on it.

''It's not like it's going to be a big secret,'' Francona said. ''We're not trying to keep it a secret. I mean, we're taking 25 guys and he's one of them. The paperwork is not done, but I think the work has been done by him.''

Brantley played in three straight Cactus League games this week as the Indians wanted to see if he could handle the workload before making any decisions. Brantley did not have any setbacks, clearing the way for him to possibly be in left field on opening day - a moment the Indians have been hoping would be possible and may soon be a reality.

Brantley batted .385 (10 for 26) with two homers this spring.

With Brantley in the lineup, the Indians are a much more complete team. He's arguably the team's best all-around player, and Francona considers him the heart and soul of the Indians.

Brantley initially hurt his shoulder while diving for a ball in the outfield in October of 2015. He had surgery but never got completely healthy last season, when he underwent an operation on his right biceps.

The Indians took a much more deliberate approach with him this spring, gradually building up strength in his shoulder.

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