GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians signed Russell Branyan to a one-year, $2 million deal two weeks ago. So ... where is he?
He's in the trainer's room, for one. Branyan is still battling the back issues that cost him the final month of the 2009 season with the Mariners. Because of a herniated disc in his lower back, he has yet to appear in a Cactus League game with the Tribe. Heck, for that matter, he's yet to appear in batting practice. Manager Manny Acta announced last week that the 34-year-old Branyan would make his spring debut Wednesday against the Padres. The game came and went, and Branyan was still absent from the lineup. Cause for concern? "This is what we knew when we signed him," Acta said. "He's still finishing his rehab. We have a lot of time left. We've got to take care of this guy." Branyan is slated to be the Tribe's regular first baseman. He's coming off a career-year, albeit an injury shortened one. He hit .251 with 31 homers, 21 doubles and 76 RBIs in 116 games for the M's last season. Because the Indians signed Branyan, Matt LaPorta, who made his spring debut Wednesday, is expected to move to left field. And because LaPorta is expected to move to left field, Michael Brantley is expected to begin the season in Triple-A Columbus. Obviously, then, the Branyan signing directly impacts two of the Tribe's more highly touted prospects. But he was signed so that the Indians could avoid starting Brantley's arbitration clock and so that they wouldn't be an injury away from starting Shelley Duncan or Andy Marte at first base on a regular basis. Acta said Branyan is taking ground balls at first base and taking swings as part of a "gradual" process of gearing up for the season. But where, just a few days ago, Acta was ready to announce Branyan's timetable for appearing in an exhibition game, the manager did not offer such a timetable Wednesday.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.