Brantley the likely choice to man center field

Brantley the likely choice to man center field

Brantley the likely choice to man center field
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Michael Brantley is facing a familiar situation this spring. With Indians center fielder Grady Sizemore out for at least two months after surgery on his lower back, the team has a choice of playing Brantley in left field or moving him up the middle.

On Thursday, general manager Chris Antonetti and manager Manny Acta noted that the most likely situation is having Brantley shift to center field on a regular basis. Acta took things a step further, noting there was only one scenario under which Brantley would remain in left.

"I'm going to be blunt to you guys," Acta said. "The only way that Michael is going to play left field is if [Ezequiel] Carrera wins a job and plays center field. Other than that, there's nobody else in camp that can be a better center fielder than Brantley."

In all likelihood, this means Brantley will be in center come Opening Day.

Injuries to Cleveland's outfield played a big role in Carrera's ascent to the Major Leagues last season. The 24-year-old outfielder performed well in stretches, but looked out of place in others. Overall, the slap-hitting speedster spent 68 games with the Indians outside of a solid showing with Triple-A Columbus.

Carrera would have to outshine a pile of competitors this spring in order to make the team.

"Last year, it was a tough opportunity for him," Acta said. "It was a tough scenario: first time in the big leagues, coming in in the middle of a pennant race. He still has a ways to go up here. Obviously, the numbers are there and he needs to continue to improve. That's what Spring Training is for.

"He can show up in Spring Training and be lights out, but I think we all saw last year that he still needs some improvement. That's the reason he was in Triple-A."

With the Indians, Carrera hit .243 with 10 stolen bases, 11 extra-base hits, 14 RBIs and 27 runs scored. Across 82 games at Triple-A, the outfielder hit .287 with 13 extra-base hits, 25 RBIs, 35 stolen bases and 63 runs.

If Brantley does indeed move to center field as expected, that means the Indians will be looking for a starter for left. Outside of Brantley and right fielder Shin-Soo Choo, the Tribe has 12 outfielders in camp (five non-roster invitees). That does not include infielder Jason Donald, who is expected to see some time in the outfield later this spring.

The two players who are out of Minor League options are Shelley Duncan -- a right-handed option for left field, first base and designated hitter -- and Aaron Cunningham, who hits from the right side and can play all three outfield spots. They would have to clear waivers if they were not on the active roster at the end of Spring Training.

Acta said defensive ability will be an important factor in the decision.

"When you're moving people around in the outfield," Acta said, "your defense also has to be taken into consideration. You can't sacrifice the defense. Grady and Michael together are a very good pair of outfielders. Now, you're moving Michael to center. In left field, you can't downgrade your defense too much."