Welcome back, baseball.

Everyone’s got jokes. And that’s how you know baseball is back.

At least that’s how it goes for beat writers much of the time. When I walked through the doors to the clubhouse on Tuesday morning, seeing that old familiar hallway at the Tribe’s Goodyear complex, manager Terry Francona was headed in my direction, plate of breakfast in hand, hustling off to a morning meeting.

“NO MEDIA!” Francona bellowed, before smiling wide and disappearing down a side hall.

Welcome back.

Here we are again. Another season. We’re in the starting corral, waiting to see the marathon starting line that is Opening Day. Here at the Indians’ camp, pitchers and catcher officially reported for duty on Wednesday. Everyone was accounted for, and then some. Most of the position players — not required to show their faces until Sunday — have already arrived and set up shop at the complex.

That includes left fielder Michael Brantley, who is making great progress in his right shoulder rehab and is already in mid-season form when it comes to dealing with media. After a non-contact hitting session on Wednesday morning, marking the early portion of his gradual return to the batter’s box, Brantley quipped, “I’m not even here, yet. I won’t be here until Sunday. Talk to you Sunday.”

So, officially, Brantley had no comment on his comeback. Unofficially, he said he felt great and everyone who has seen him working behind the scenes says he is looking great, too. Of course, looking great and feeling strong on Feb. 17 means little. Cleveland needs Brantley looking great and feeling strong when the season is dragging into August, September and, as the Indians hope, October.

With that in mind, it’s up to the Indians to make sure Brantley does not push things too hard, too soon.

“That’s our job and that’s our medical staff’s job,” Indians general manager Mike Chernoff said. “If you ask him, he’ll probably tell you [he’s aiming to be ready by] Opening Day. So, it’s on us to make sure that we do this for the long haul, and that it doesn’t end up being something that lingers, because we rushed his rehab process.”

Beyond Brantley’s progress, there has been little in the way of news over the past few days. The Indians are still monitoring the free-agent market for additional help (see: Juan Uribe), but there is nothing imminent on that front as of this writing. On Thursday, pitchers and catchers will run through physicals. Come Friday, there will be an actually, official, springtime workout.

Yep, baseball is back alright. It didn’t really hit me until third base coach Mike Sarbaugh punched me in the side when he walked by this morning. Everyone’s got jokes.

Here are some links to hold you over:

 

 

A reminder to follow me on Twitter (@MLBastian) and on Instagram (bastianmlb) for all the latest from Spring Training. And, it should go without saying, but keep reading Indians.com.

Stay tuned for more…

–JB

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