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Hafner starts to pick up the pace

By Sheldon Published: June 17, 2009

CLEVELAND: Wednesday was another scheduled night off for Travis Hafner, whose return to the Indians' lineup, while sporadic, has been marked mostly by success.

Hafner says his surgically operated right shoulder is less subject to soreness and fatigue, and in his first 29 at-bats, he is hitting .310 with three home runs, eight RBI, and characteristically, five walks.

An important part of Hafner's offensive skill set is plate discipline and the ability to discern balls from strikes. He also has been smart enough to take a walk, but the fact that he has regained his judgment is a positive sign for the Tribe.

Though Hafner has not always hit the ball with authority since his return, he has done so often enough to prove that his power is still there, possibly to be unleashed more frequently the farther he gets from last October's surgery.

Moreover, he served notice that playing two of every three days is a plan that has almost run its course.

"I think pretty soon I'll be playing three nights in a row,'' he said.

When reporters told manager Eric Wedge of Hafner's words, it might have been the best thing the manager had heard all day.

"I'm certainly willing to listen to that,'' Wedge said Wednesday. ""As soon as he wants to do it, I want to hear about it. It's good to hear that from him.''

Then Wedge smiled and said, ""You guys keep asking him.'

Hafner's playing time no longer is being decided by the team's medical staff.

"He's the only one who can lead the way,'' Wedge said. ""He's the one who knows how sore he is or how tired the shoulder feels.''

So far, when Hafner is asked about his shoulder, he usually frames the answers by using the term ""pretty good'' somewhere in the sentence. Either it's feeling ""pretty good'' or the strength is coming along ""pretty good'' or things are ""pretty good'' compared to a couple of weeks ago.

Hafner does not want to be under the microscope of raised expecations by telling the media his shoulder no longer an issue. Or maybe his shoulder still is not totally pain free 100 percent of the time.

"He seems to be getting better,'' Wedge said. ""We're seeing the ball come off his bat pretty well at times. He was mad on that last at-bat (Tuesday, when Hafner homered). Maybe he should get mad more often.''

Hafner did not like the umpire's call on the previous pitch.

PITCHING SETBACKS -- Carl Pavano's next start will be delayed a few days (until the Pittsburgh series June 23-25) because of soreness in his right shoulder.

"We're going to push Carl back a few days,'' Wedge said. ""He has a little soreness as well. He also hasn't pitched this much in as long time, so giving him extra time makes sense.''

In his past two starts, Pavano has given up 15 runs in 92/3 innings. In 14 starts, he has worked 812/3 innings, the most since 2005, when he was with the Yankees and pitched 100.

"His stuff continues to be good,'' Wedge said. ""That first one (bad start), he gets a mulligan because of his sore neck. I think that was a little worse than he let on.''

PERALTA RETURNS -- Jhonny Peralta was back in the lineup, but that did not temper Wedge's criticism.

"Hafner can't play tonight, and Ben Francisco really needs a night off,'' the manager said. ""I'm not pleased with the way Jhonny is playing offensively or defensively, but he can play better. I've talked to him about it; the ball is in his court.''

Until Wednesday, Wedge had not called out Peralta on his defense.

"I think Jhonny can be a very good third baseman,'' ther manager said. ""Before, I thought he could be only a decent third baseman. I want him to attack it and be as good as he can be.''

WESTBROOK SLOWED -- Not only has Jake Westbrook's next rehab start at Columbus been delayed, but his bullpen session was cancelled because of soreness in his surgically repaired right elbow.

"He's been examined again,'' Wedge said. ""As long as there is nothing structurally wrong -- and there isn't -- I think he'll be OK.''

FIVE DRAFTEES SIGNED -- The Indians have signed their fifth round pick in the amateur draft, right-hander Austin Adams from Faulkner University. Also agreeing to terms: 8th-rounder, right-hander Cory Burns from University of Arizona, ninth-round choice Preston Guilmet, a right-hander  from Arizona; 16th-round pick Dale Dickerson, a right-hander from Nicholls State, and 27th-rounder Tyler Sturdevant, a right-hander from New Mexico State.

FARM FACTS -- Jordan Brown homered, doubled and singled, driving in three runs in Columbus' 10-3 win over Rochester. Michael Brantley had three hits and two RBI, and Andy Marte hit his seventh homer of the year. Chuck Lofgren (2-2, 3.75 ERA) gave up three runs and seven hits in seven innings... Lonnie Chisenhall hit his 11th homer of the season in Kinston's 4-3 loss to Salem.


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