Five months after hip surgery, Indians’ Moss exceeds expectations

Brandon Moss has three home runs for the Indians during spring training, which is tied for the team lead.

John Locher/AP

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — With the way Brandon Moss has swung the bat and has moved in the outfield during spring training, it is hard to believe he had hip surgery five months ago.

The fact that Moss isn’t feeling any pain at all on the right side of his hip might be one of the more encouraging things for the Indians during spring training.

With a little more than a week until opening day, Moss has passed all his tests with flying colors including playing in back-to-back games twice. After playing four games the past five days, Moss was not in the lineup when the Indians faced the Brewers on Saturday.

Moss thought at this point that he would be in the field and regularly playing. He just didn’t expect to feel this well.

"I think I had anticipated having days where you come in and it’s just sore or you can’t get it to move right. It never happened," Moss said. "There was no inflammation and the pain was minimal. Not anything happened to the point where I had to start over."

Moss is tied for the spring lead in homers with three. In Tuesday night’s win over San Francisco he hit a towering shot over the right-field wall at Goodyear Ballpark that ended up landing on the roof of one of the picnic patios. That would have been the swing of the day if it weren’t for Jerry Sands’ towering shot over the batter’s eye in center.

Two days later against the Reds, Moss tried to make a diving play in foul territory and quickly bounced back up. For the past couple weeks it has had all the appearances of a normal spring.

Terry Francona didn’t want to say he was shocked about how well Moss has looked during spring training but used the term "beyond pleased." At the beginning of spring training many thought that Moss would strictly be the designated hitter during the first month as he continued to work his way back.

Francona added: "I don’t think there was any reasonable right to think he could be where he is right now. The most exciting thing is he looks so healthy. He’s taking those big swings, running good, stopping quickly and he’s the one asking to play the outfield. It’s pretty obvious how hard he’s worked and it’s going to pay off for us."

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After struggling during the second half last season with Oakland, Moss had surgery to repair a right labrum repair in late October. The Indians acquired him on Dec. 9 and he reported to spring training on Feb. 1 to continue rehab.

Even early in camp everyone was marveling at how quick Moss was passing the various rehab tests that some wondered if things should slow down a bit.

Moss will begin the year likely splitting time between right and designated hitter. He has taken some ground balls at first and said that has helped him feel better because it has helped get the feeling of his legs more underneath him.

Based on early lineup projections, Moss should be batting fifth. With Michael Brantley and Carlos Santana in front of him, there is plenty of potential for home runs and RBI. Moss could also see an uptick in his batting average now that his home ballpark is Progressive Field. Playing in the cavernous Coliseum, Moss had a .232 average in home games the past three seasons.

"Over in Oakland it was a good balanced lineup but there were three or four guys that the whole lineup pretty much depended on for the most part. Here up and down throughout you’ve got guys that can swing it and to be a part of something that good offensively is exciting," he said.