5/26/2014 7:31 P.M. ET
Brantley far from an afterthought in Cleveland
By Joe Popely / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Michael Brantley wasn't considered the ultimate prize when the Indians acquired him as part of the CC Sabathia trade in 2008. In fact, Brantley was the final piece of that deal as the "player to be named" and came to the Indians three months after the initial deal.
Matt LaPorta was thought to be the best prospect in that deal. Six years later, LaPorta is in the Mexican League while Brantley has become one of the club's most important players.
Brantley, who has averaged a .286 batting average, 65 runs scored and 67 RBIs over the past two years while seldom missing a game, is hitting .307 with an .893 OPS. He's a perfect 7-for-7 in stolen bases and has hit nine homers, one short of his career high set last season.
Brantley delivered a pair of hits in Monday's 6-2 loss to the White Sox, extending his hitting streak to 12 games. He's hitting .396 with three doubles, a triple, two homers and nine RBIs in that span.
In short, the Indians found the right "player to be named" in that significant deal.
"He does everything very well. He kind of, almost, reminds me of last year, like [Jason Kipnis]," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I know Brantley's been in the league and everything, but he has turned himself into one of the better players in the game. Not just hitters, not just dependable hitter, but outfielder, baserunner."
Francona also noted how hard Brantley worked on his outfield defense, in particular throwing, in Spring Training. It's paid dividends.
"That's why every time he makes one of those throws, I kind of remind myself to say something to the media, because I think when the year's over and you start talking about Gold Gloves and things like that, his name needs to start getting mentioned in things like that," Francona said. "And I know he won't toot his own horn, so I need to do it for him.
"He is very diligent. In Cleveland, he plays that corner and he works on it all the time. He works on the angles, his footwork. It's just his arm is so accurate. He's got good carry."
Kipnis expected to start Wednesday for Tribe
CHICAGO -- Indians All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis will join the team Tuesday in Chicago and will start Wednesday, manager Terry Francona said.
Kipnis, who has been on the disabled list with a strained right oblique since May 2, made a pair of rehab starts at Triple-A Columbus over the weekend. He played five innings on Friday, going 0-for-2 with an RBI groundout, and hit a home run on Saturday while playing seven innings. He'll play a full nine innings for Columbus on Monday night before flying to Chicago.
"He'll be here tomorrow and he'll start on Wednesday barring anything unforeseen," Francona said. "But he feels pretty good. He really wanted to play today, but he's kind of raring to go."
Oblique strains can be a tricky injury to manage because of how much baseball activities -- particularly swinging a bat -- can stress the muscle. It's a tender area that can be easily aggravated following a strain. The Indians took their time bringing Kipnis back, though, and don't think he'll have any issues moving forward.
"You know, I don't know if you can be careful," Francona said. "Yeah, we're not going to play him 10 in a row. We don't need to do that. That's not fair to him, but having him back will be a nice lift for us.
"He brings, even when he's got three games under his belt, you know other teams have to respect who he is and what he can do, so that'll be a nice guy to have back."
Asdrubal back on the field after resting injuries
CHICAGO -- Asdrubal Cabrera was back in the Indians lineup, hitting fourth as the designated hitter, for Monday's series opener with the White Sox following a four-game absence. He was originally slotted second in the order and playing shortstop but was moved to DH when Carlos Santana was a late scratch from the lineup.
Cabrera was hit by a fastball in the left kneecap last week against the Tigers and also fouled a pitch off his right big toe. Both injuries simply required time off to heal, and Cabrera said he felt ready to go for Monday after pinch-hitting in Sunday's 4-2 loss to the Orioles.
"He worked hard to kind of get back quick because he was pretty sore," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "And I don't think he feels great, but he's plenty good to play. You start getting to this point of the year where you get games under your belt and the travel, everyone feels a little beat up."
Cabrera went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and left six runners on base during Monday's 6-2 loss.
Swisher wants to see more done for military members
CHICAGO -- Nick Swisher has a special connection to Memorial Day. His grandfather served in the United States Military during the Korean War, and he has done a lot of charitable work with veterans and has visited troops in Afghanistan.
Swisher just wishes members of the military got this sort of recognition year-round.
"Well, it's for everybody, not just my family, that's the point," Swisher said. "It's that those men and women are fighting to give us what we have here and they need to be put there. They need to be put up at the top and given the recognition they deserve. And for me, I believe in that stuff.
"Obviously, there's a lot of attention around Memorial Day weekend for our veterans and military service men and women, but I think that should be mentioned all the time, man. These men and women are the true heroes."
As for Swisher's season, he seems to be turning the corner at the plate. Entering play Monday, he was hitting just .209, but he has six hits in his last 19 at-bats, a .316 average.
"I feel great, man," Swisher said. "Sometimes you kind of have bad starts. I mean, this is what, my 11th season? So hey, just gotta keep grinding. I've got my work cut out for me from here on through the second half and I'm ready for that challenge."
"Again, guys that are good, with track records, as long as they stay healthy, they're going to get to their level," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "They always do, and you just hope that when they do, there's some production that comes with it. He's too good a hitter to stay there, where he's been."
Quote to note
"You know what, I need to stay away from that one. I got my hands full being the manager of this team, I don't need to be the GM of another team. I did exchange a couple texts with Theo yesterday in fun, and he was probably funnier than I was."
-- Francona, on the Cubs signing Manny Ramirez as a player-coach for their Triple-A affiliate. Francona managed Ramirez and worked for Theo Epstein in Boston from 2004-08.
• Santana was scratched approximately 15 minutes before first pitch because he was feeling ill. The team is unsure if Santana was simply under the weather or if he was experiencing concussion-like symptoms after taking a foul tip off the mask while catching Sunday in Baltimore. He was sent back to the hotel.
• The Indians wore camouflage-style hats while the script "Cleveland" across their jersey was in camouflage in honor of Memorial Day.
Joe Popely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.