Q&A with Tribe OF Michael Brantley

Pittsburgh Pirates v Cleveland IndiansIndians outfielder Michael Brantley, who took home a Silver Slugger Award on Thursday and will find out where he falls in voting for the American League MVP next week, met with Cleveland reporters via conference call on Friday afternoon. Here are  some of his thoughts on the awards, the Royals’ playoff run, Cleveland’s chances next season and more…

Q: What does it mean for you to not only receive a Silver Slugger, but to be one of the final three candidates for the MVP?

Brantley: “It’s a great honor. It really is. When I sit back and kind of reflect on the season, from the coaching staff, teammates, to the trainers, to my family’s support, just everybody that helped me get through the season, and the season we had together, to be recognized for these awards, it’s a blessing and an honor.”

Q: Is is special to share the Silver Slugger honor with Yan Gomes?

Brantley: “It’s very exciting, because you see all the hard work that he puts in each and every day. He’s a great teammate. He’s one of the leaders on our team. He’s in the cage with me side by side and he works hard each and every day. As a catcher, it’s not easy to catch as many games as he does. To be his teammate and to watch how hard he worked this year, I couldn’t be more happy for one of my teammates. He deserves it.”

Q: What was the key to not only taking the next step offensively this past season, but to maintain your consistency all year?

Brantley: “One of the biggest things was I changed my mental approach. I wasn’t up there just trying to walk or work counts. I was really trying to get a fastball early and put a good swing on it. In the past, I never tried to do that before, really. I used to try to work counts, get on base, making sure I was getting the perfect pitch. This year, I wanted to be more aggressive. I figured, maybe there’s a good first-pitch fastball to hit early. I was ready to swing and try to put a good swing on the ball.

Q: Did you watch any of the postseason?

Brantley: “I did not. I’m a family man. Family comes first. My daughter and step-son keep me really busy and I enjoy being a father, so I didn’t get a chance to watch as much as I would’ve liked.”

Q: What was your reaction to seeing Kansas City — a team you were chasing — reach the World Series?

Brantley: “Anybody that gets to the World Series, it’s a great season and it’s a great honor. It’s something I look forward to participating in — hopefully next year. Any time a team gets a chance to play in the World Series, it’s a lot of hard work. You’ve got to tip your cap to them.”

Q: Does Kansas City’s playoff run make you feel like your team isn’t that far behind?

Brantley: “Absolutely. We made it to the postseason the year before, even though no one really gave us a chance to that year. And now we have the same group of guys and it’s fun coming to work every day. We have a great group of guys that work hard and care about one another. All it takes is getting hot at the right time, making sure that we’re all working hard and pulling on one chain.”

Q: What did it mean for you to see Terry Francona sign his contract extension?

Brantley: “It’s exciting, because it’s somewhere that he wants to be and he’s happy being here coaching us. And we’re happy playing for him. He’s a player’s manager, as everybody always says. He allows you to go out there to play the game of baseball, have fun and enjoy it. A 162-game season is a long season, but when you enjoy coming to work every day, enjoy your manager and you enjoy a group of guys that you’re with and are your teammates, it’s awesome. It’s awesome to be a part of and something special is going to happen.”

Q: With Corey Kluber being in the Cy Young mix and you being in the MVP race, do you feel like you guys have the makings of a yearly contender?

Brantley: “Well, I hope so. The more time that you have at the Major League level, the more you grow. The harder you keep working and always push yourself to get better, the more success you’re going to have. We have group of young guys that are coming together. Now that we’re all starting to be established Major Leaguers, it should be fun to watch. I know I’m very excited for next year and I hear from a lot of my teammates in the offseason that they are as well. A lot of guys are working hard already and are looking to come to Spring Training and work together as a team, and make it to the playoffs and hopefully win a World Series.”

Q: If the team doesn’t make any major offseason additions, do you think the group in place achieve that goal?

Brantley: “Yes I do. We made it to the postseason once already. We’re still adding little pieces to the puzzle, but if we don’t, I just think just being with one another, knowing what you’re going to get out of your teammates to the left and right of you, especially the group here, it’s a great group of guys that we have in the locker room, it’s special. I really think it is. It’s a lot of hard work that we’ve got to put in, and we understand that. We’ve got to continue to push, push each other and work hard, and good things will happen at the end.”

Q: Will you do anything different with your offseason training this year?

Brantley: “Not at all. I really pride myself on just kind of working hard in the offseason. I’ve been kind of doing the same routine for the last couple years. I’m just making sure I stay consistent. I think it’s consistency and your workout routines and eating right and making sure that you come in healthy to Spring Training and ready to play. I’m not a position player that feels like I take Spring Training to get ready. I want to come into Spring Training ready to play, so that once the first game, I’m acclimated and I’m ready to go. Spring Training is short. It’s getting shorter and shorter every year, so you have to come into Spring Training prepared and ready to play baseball.”

Q: Did it mean more to you to make your first All-Star team or to be named an MVP finalist?

Brantley: “Really, it’s just an honor to be mentioned for both of them. That’s not something you take lightly. It’s a lot of hard work. Obviously, your peers and voters and everybody have their say as well. I’m just honored to be mentioned in that category of guys that I’m in. I don’t think one award is going to be special more than the other. I just think it’s a good tribute to a lot of hard work paying off.”

Q: Have you had a chance to reflect on your season with your dad?

Brantley: “Yeah, it’s funny. We were just talking the other day. After a couple awards came out and I was nominated for a couple things, I looked at him and I said, ‘Hey, Pops. I had a pretty good season, huh?’ He just laughed at me. He said, ‘Son, you had a great season.’ But I’ve never been that player that is really stat driven. I care about wins and losses and I care about my teammates. That’s what comes first and foremost for me. My goal, just like every other year, as soon as I step into Spring Training, is to get to the postseason and win the World Series. That’s a group effort, and we all know that in the locker room. That’s No. 1 on my list.”

–JB

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