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03/29/10 9:18 PM ET

Indians plot rehab course for Branyan

First baseman to begin assignment April 8 in Triple-A

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Russell Branyan will break camp with the Indians, after all.

He just won't be playing.

Branyan, headed for the 15-day disabled list because of a herniated disk in his lower back, will leave the Player Development Complex the same time the Indians do this weekend. But after accompanying the club to Chicago, he's scheduled to begin a rehab assignment at Triple-A Columbus when the Clippers open their season Thursday, April 8.

How long will the rehab last?

"As long as there are no setbacks -- and this is me talking -- I feel like I can go down to Columbus and work through some things and it could be 10 days, it could be seven," Branyan said. "Ultimately, it's their decision."

The Indians' most optimistic hope is that Branyan will be ready to join them as their starting first baseman by the middle of April. That is, of course, barring no further setbacks in the condition that has prevented Branyan, who signed a one-year deal worth $2 million, from appearing in any spring exhibition games.

Branyan took batting practice and fielded ground balls at his position Monday and said he felt "great." He's scheduled to appear as a designated hitter in a Minor League game Tuesday and is expecting to play three to five innings in the field later in the week.

"This is where I expected to be last week," Branyan said. "The rehab just took a little longer than expected."

Branyan, 34, missed the last month of the '09 season with the Mariners because of the back issue. He had hoped to appear in the final week of Cactus League games and be ready for Opening Day, but the Indians opted not to push him.

"I was optimistic that I could get ready in a week," Branyan said. "But if you look at a 162-game schedule, it's smarter for both parties to continue the rehab and come back with a very regimented schedule. This organization, from the time I was drafted in '94 to now, has done an excellent job with rehab programs and building volume and getting guys on the field."

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.