Astros’ Brantley pleased after first game of rehab assignment

Jun 19, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Astros designated hitter Michael Brantley (23) in the dugout prior to a game against the Chicago White Sox at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Astros’ Brantley pleased after first game of rehab assignment

Wearing Dulces de Sugar Land red and green, Michael Brantley took the next towards rejoining the Astros on Sunday afternoon, playing the first game of a rehab assignment that will last at least a week.

Playing in his first game in almost 10 months, Brantley played five innings in left field on a cool, wet Sunday afternoon at Constellation Field and stepped into the batter’s box three times, finishing 1-for-1 with a walk against Las Vegas starter Drew Rucinski.

“Knocked some of the rust off,” he said. “Had to get used to the scenery, get back into the flow of the game, but all went really well.”

Brantley hadn’t played since June 26 due to a right shoulder injury that required surgery in August to repair a torn labrum, and he admitted he was uncomfortable, mostly due to the pitch clock, which he had dealt with during live BP sessions in Florida but never in a game situation. 

“I don’t like it. It’s an adjustment. I’m a professional. I’ll figure it out. I’ve been doing something the same way for 14 years. Now we’re changing it, so it’s an adjustment for me, but I’ll get there, I understand it, but I can say I don’t like it.”

The five-time All-Star took the first five pitches he saw from Rucinski, a 34-year-old right-hander who last pitched in the Majors for Miami five years ago, but hit a soft line drive up the middle that was trapped by Las Vegas second baseman Zack Gelof diving to his right, and Brantley reached base as Gelof didn’t attempt a throw thinking he had caught the ball in the air. 

Rucinski walked Brantley on four pitches in the third inning, and he was left in the on-deck circle when Pedro Leon flew out to end the fifth. 

“This is basically my spring training,” Brantley said. “I gotta get ready. I understand it’s a little more magnified because we’re trying to win ball games down here as well, but at the same time, I’m going to do what’s best for me, and then we’ll get back to the Major Leagues and try to help the Houston Astros as best we can.”

Brantley will accompany the Space Cowboys on their road trip to Reno this week, and Astros general manager Dana Brown said Sunday the team will re-evaluate him at the conclusion of that six-game series. Brantley’s rehab assignment can last as long as 20 days, and while he says there’s no timetable for his return to the Major League roster, Brantley said he’s not going to rush anything. 

“I want to be smart. The team wants to be smart. We have a great dialogue every single day, everything’s been going well, but we’ll see where it goes.

“I feel great. I’m really excited about where I’m at. This was a great first step. Obviously, this was my first game back, but it felt great. It felt great to be back out there with the guys, feel the crowd, smile at some fans, just get back to the normalcy of baseball, so very appreciative and just thankful.”

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