CLEVELAND -- Terry Francona would prefer to have left fielder Michael Brantley in the starting lineup, but the Indians' manager also knows there are higher priorities in life.
A few hours before Friday's game against the Mets, Francona called Brantley into his office and told the outfielder that he was being scratched from the lineup. Brantley was given permission to leave the team to return home to Florida to be with his wife for the birth of their first child.
"I said, 'We'd love to have you hit fifth, but if you miss the birth of your baby, I would have a hard time,'" Francona said. "Dealing with experience, I missed one of mine and it's not good. In this day and age, as important as baseball is to all of us, and to me more so than probably anybody ever, I still would hate to be responsible for somebody missing the birth of their child. So, he's on his way.
"I think he was struggling with should he go or not. Once I got wind of it, I just didn't think there was really a decision to make."
Francona was not sure how many games Brantley would miss, but noted that the baby was expected to arrive either Friday or Saturday.
With Brantley out of the lineup, outfielder Jason Kubel shifted to left field and moved into the fifth spot of the batting order. Right fielder Drew Stubbs -- initially given the day off against Mets right-hander Zack Wheeler -- started in his customary position on the field and in the lineup (ninth).
On the season, Brantley has hit .278 with eight home runs, 24 doubles, 59 RBIs and 60 runs scored through 132 games. Since Aug. 1, Brantley has hit .257 with a .666 OPS in 30 games, though the left fielder has hit .393 (11-for-28) in his last eight contests.
"He's been so consistent," Francona said. "He will get hot again. It just won't be tonight."