Russell Branyan will get tomorrow off. The tweaked back that he suffered on Thursday still isn't exactly 100 percent. And while it isn't hurting him, it's uncomfortable enough to where he's afraid to do some things to make it worse - a perfect example would be the 3-6-3 double play where he seemed to be running at 3/4 speed to first base.
There was some thought that Branyan would be sitting today. And it was something that manager Don Wakamatsu considered.
"We talked about him coming in early and getting some treatment and making the decision at that point," Wakamatsu said. "But yeah, we talked about giving him the day off and making it three days. He reassured me he wanted to be in there, and his back was going in the direction we wanted it to, rather than getting worse."
Branyan has clearly been struggling of late, even before the all-star break. He's 1-for-9 on the road trip and has just three hits in his last 30 at-bats.
He knows he's been struggling of late, in combination with his back," Wakamatsu said. "From our standpoint, what we're more concerned about is it a point where it's getting worse. Today he said it was getting better. Tomorrow we'll probably give him a day off, that would give him two. Obviously, we had the All-Star break, we don't want him to sit out too long."
Branyan lobbied to play telling Wakamatsu he wanted to "fight through some of the offensive struggles." It's a commendable attitude that Wakamatsu appreciates. But remember Branyan is on pace to start more games and log more at-bats than ever has in his career.
"He's done so much for this club," Wakamatsu said. "Every player gets to a point, especially a player in his situation where you keep telling everyone on this club. It's not a matter of holding on, it's a matter of continuing to push and do whatever you can for the club."
So what is wrong with Branyan exactly?
"Offensively, it's hard to put your finger on what he's going through the last couple of weeks. Is he pressing too much? Is it his swing mechanically?," Wakamatsu said. "There's a lot of different factors, but the biggest thing for him is just try to retain the routine he had in the first half, and push it through the second half. The back doesn't help. That's what we're juggling right now."
Part of the reason for Branyan's struggles on this road trip may be playing Cleveland itself. The Indians were the organization that drafted him, groomed him for the big leagues, hyped him for stardom and then washed their hands of him when it didn't happen. For the first time, Branyan is having the success expected and on some level he may be trying a little too hard to justify it to his old club. At least Wakamatsu thinks it's a possibility.
"Absolutely. There's always going to be some anxiety to try to prove, 'hey you let me go,' or whatever it is, coming back to where it all started for him," he said. "Obviously, it would bring back memories for a lot of people. Those are all things he needs to go through, grow, and continue on. We believe in him as a player and what he can do. I think he can be a premiere hitter. But half a season doesn't make a season, and that's what we're trying to tell him right now. Just keep pushing. You've got to fight through things like this.