09/20/09 4:38 PM ET
Brantley a promising work in progress
Outfield prospect finding a home for himself at leadoff spot
By Jane Lee / Special to MLB.com
"This road trip feels like it's been about three weeks," the Indians manager admitted. "For obvious reasons."
Said reasons being the fact his team has yet to pick up a win on its current road swing through Texas and Oakland and is currently owners of a season-high seven-game losing streak.
In the meantime, though, Michael Brantley has offered the Tribe a reason to believe there's better -- and winning -- days ahead.
The 22-year-old rookie, acquired last year as the player to be named later in the CC Sabathia trade with the Brewers, entered Sunday's series finale boasting a .314 average in the leadoff spot -- where he's earned the whole-hearted trust of his manager in place of the injured Grady Sizemore.
"We kind of just threw him up into that leadoff spot when Grady had to quit playing," Wedge said. "He's getting on base, he's getting his hits and is handling left-handers and right-handers well."
Brantley spent most of the season with Triple-A Columbus, batting .267 with 21 doubles, six homers and 37 RBIs in 116 games. Furthermore, he was 46-for-51 in stolen base attempts, making him that much more attractive in the leadoff hole, where he was placed in just his fourth Major League game after being called up when rosters expanded Sept. 1.
"I think we have to remember just how young he is and not to expect too much," Wedge said. "I think the fact of the matter is he's going to learn a great deal here in a short period of time. Just the fact he hasn't been up here before, I think he's handled it all very well."
As much trust as Wedge has already granted his young outfielder, the skipper knows Brantley will need just as much time to mature as any other rookie learning the ways of The Show.
"It's a huge adjustment," the manager said. "There are just so many things outside of the game you have to deal with. There's a reason it's such a big step, because these are the best in the world and it's a quicker game. Everyone's more consistent, a little more precise."
One of the steps Wedge isn't worried about Brantley making in the final weeks of the season is learning the lessons of big league bunting.
"We're figuring out where he stands up here, and I think the bunt portion of it is something he doesn't need to be concerned about right now," he said. "I think if you look over the course of the season that's going to be a main part of his game, but we're not worried about that.
"He's just coming up right now and getting his feet underneath him."
Jane Lee is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.