Michael Brantley behind other Indians position players in camp

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona said Wednesday that outfielder Michael Brantley is behind the other position players in camp and will not be ready to play when the Cactus League schedule begins Feb. 25 against the Cincinnati Reds.

Brantley's availability for the regular-season opener against Texas on April 3 will depend on the strides he's able to make in his rehab from surgery to repair a torn right biceps. The Indians will leave that part of the equation up to him.

"He's following the protocols the medical people put in place,'' Francona said. "By all accounts, he's doing everything. This kid has worked his ass off. We just need to be patient and allow him to try to get to the point where he can not only come back, but stay back.

"After not having him for a whole year, he deserves to do it right. He's worked so hard, and to have him back will be so nice. We're going to do it right so he can have his best chance to be successful.''

Brantley, a 2014 All-Star and the third-place finisher in the American League MVP race that season, logged 39 at-bats in 11 games in 2016. He began the season on the disabled list with an injury to his right, nonthrowing shoulder, and had surgery in August to repair chronic biceps tendinitis.

For the second straight winter, Brantley stayed in Cleveland to concentrate on his rehab rather than go home to Florida for the offseason.

The Indians are counting on Brantley and newly acquired Edwin Encarnacion to upgrade an offense that ranked second to Boston in the AL with 777 runs in 2016. But Brantley is currently limited to hitting off a tee, and the team has no plans to slap any timetables on him.

Francona said it's "not even on the table'' that Brantley will be ready to appear in spring training games on time.

"I don't think that's fair to him,'' Francona said. "We all see how hard he's working. I think we're just going to go off of him. As he gets things accomplished with the proper amount of intensity, he'll move on to something else. I think that's the timetable we need to abide by.''

Cleveland's spring training outfield mix consists of Lonnie Chisenhall and Brandon Guyer in right field, Tyler Naquin and Abraham Almonte in center, and Brantley and recent free-agent signee Austin Jackson in left field. Third baseman Jose Ramirez is capable of playing left, should the need arise.

Like Brantley, Jackson is behind the other position players after knee surgery. He hit .254 in 54 games with the Chicago White Sox in 2016 before having a small portion of his left medial meniscus removed in June.

"We almost have to guard him from [himself], because he feels good and he wants to come in and show what he can do,'' Francona said of Jackson. "It's different when you come into camp and start pounding every day. We'll keep an eye on him. He'll be another guy that won't be raring to go right away.''