September 3, 2014

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Indians’ Brantley stays quiet while breaking record

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Michael Brantley doesn’t want to talk about his own achievements, but everybody else does.

After Monday night’s 5-2 win over the Los Angeles Angels, Brantley declined to speak about breaking the Indians’ club record for consecutive errorless games by an outfielder.

The left fielder made it through 213 in a row without committing a blunder, one more than Rocky Colavito. He pushed it to 215 with two more wins against the Angels.

“I don’t talk about records,” Brantley said. “I didn’t even know about it until I came in (the clubhouse).”

Manager Terry Francona wasn’t given a heads-up about the milestone, either, and he wasn’t shocked that Brantley declined to talk about what a wondrous outfielder he is.

“That doesn’t surprise me,” he said. “He’s a modest kid. That’s not the worst word.
Most of the time, you don’t have to tell people you’re good. He doesn’t want to do it himself, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.”

Only two other American League outfielders who have started at least 100 games are error free: Nick Markakis of the Baltimore Orioles and Alex Gordon of the Kansas City Royals.

Brantley and Gordon are tied for the league lead with 10 outfield assists, and Brantley ranks sixth in innings played with 1,014, so he doesn’t get much time off.

“Some guys could have (errorless) streaks like that which are not as meaningful,” Francona said. “And I’m not talking about Brantley. Some guys don’t make errors, but they don’t make plays. Brantley makes all the throws from the alleys, and he never takes a play off. He’s a really solid player.”

Defensively, Brantley’s most noticeable skill is accuracy. Seldom does he make a throw that misses its mark by more than a foot or two. He also gets rid of the ball quickly.

“The first day of every series, he works on that,” said Brad Mills, who coaches third base and instructs the outfielders. “He’s very consistent, and he knows the game and each situation. And all those (outfielders) help each other.”

Brantley also seems to know instinctively when a shallow fly ball or line drive is apt to be out of his reach. Consequently, he doesn’t make a futile effort to execute a diving catch unnecessarily, risking a double or even a triple if the ball jets past him.

“He has good awareness of everything,” Francona said. “Not just in the outfield but at the plate.”

Until this year, Brantley’s reputation as a quality outfielder was based mostly on foot speed. Maybe he’s gotten better, or maybe people weren’t noticing what was right in front of them.

Brantley might be benefiting from not shuttling between left and center. Everyday outfielders Michael Bourn, Drew Stubbs and Brantley all are veteran center fielders, but because Brantley often played left, that is where he landed.

At the plate, Brantley already has exceeded his career high in home runs with eight, and with 58 RBIs is assured of surpassing his former best of 60. In addition to batting .282 overall, he is hitting .363 with runners in scoring position with an on-base percentage of .409 and an OPS of .882.

But don’t ask him about any of these numbers. He probably will respectfully decline to talk about them.