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Cleveland Indians

Hafner's status still up in air

By Sheldon Published: June 2, 2009

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn.: One day before the end of Travis Hafner's rehabilitation assignment at Columbus, Indians officials weren't certain what to expect from their designated hitter.

Hafner left the Clippers and reported to Progressive Field, ""to get looked and get treatment,'' manager Eric Wedge said.

Tonight, he will make what is presumed to be his final appearance in the Columbus lineup then join the Tribe at the Metrodome on Thursday.

"We'll look at him here, and if all goes well, he'll be with us for Friday,'' said Wedge, refraining from saying that Hafner is expected to be in the lineup, as if he might jinx the plan.

Hafner has been on a roller coaster ride since going on the disabled list April 29 with a sore right shoulder. The shoulder problems began last year and culminated in surgery 7 1/2 months ago. The road back was relatively smooth all the way through spring training and into the early weeks of the season.

But in mid to late April, Hafner experienced soreness in the shoulder that was described as normal following surgery. However, it affected his swing, so his next stop was the DL followed by the rehab assignment at Triple-A.

The goal of Tribe operatives was for Hafner to be able to swing a bat in three or four consecutive games, a more difficult objective than one would think, especially lately, when the shoulder soreness reappeared as well as back pain that sidelined Hafner for a couple of days.

"It's his tolerance in regard to the soreness and fatigue that he's going to have now and again,'' Wedge said. ""What we'll have to do is control the volume (of games).''

Head trainer Lonnie Soloff said that Hafner should expect to feel periodic soreness for the next eight or nine months, but that the pain is not an indicator of structural damage.

Wedge is hoping that Hafner can play at least five games a week, but admits, ""We'll just take it as far as we can.''

When the season began, Wedge thought Hafner showed signs of getting his normal swing and batting eye back.

"Early on, there were stretches when he got into it,'' the manager said. ""We don't expect him to go back to what he was in 2006, but we can be a better team with him in the lineup.''

Hafner probably will not return to the cleanup spot immediately.

"I'm not sure what we'll do,'' Wedge said. ""(Shin-Soo) Choo has done a good job there. So Hafner's not just automatically going back to the four hole.''

HOLD THE TOWELS -- Wedge seems far from ready to call it a season, despite the Indians' disappointing April and a flood of injuries in May that has eight players crowding the disabled list, including three starting pitchers.

"We still have a club capable of winning ballgames,'' Wedge said Tuesday. ""I feel like we're starting to play better baseball the last two weeks and that's with all the injuries.''

Wedge has continued to shuffle many of his players among several positions, a practice that has become more of a neccesity because of the long list of lame and wounded.

"I think we're doing a pretty good job of making adjustments,'' he said.

WANTED MORE DISCIPLINE -- Kelly Shoppach struck out 40 times in 93 at-bats going into Tuesday night's game with the Twins, a rate of one strikeout every 2.3 at bats, which means if he were to play a full season of 550 at-bats, he would strike out 239 times.

This is not a pleasant thought for Wedge to contemplate.

"Kelly has to do a better job to fix himself from at-bat to at-bat and pitch to pitch,'' the manager said. ""Sometimes he gets in a hurry and tries to do too much. When he does that, it's pretty easy to get him out.''

ALL STAR UPDATE -- Victor Martinez ranks fourth in the voting for American League catchers with 396,708 votes in balloting for the All-Star Game, scheduled for July 14 in St. Louis. Joe Mauer of the Twins leads with 769,320 votes.

Grady Sizemore fell from eighth to 12th among outfielders with 348,660 votes. The top three outfielders: Boston's Jason Bay (729,590 votes), Josh Hamilton of Texas (685,463) and Ichiro Suzuki of Seattle (481,263). 

TRANSACTION -- The Tribe signed middle infielder Kyle Haines 26, to a minor-league contract and assigned him to Akron. Haines was taken from San Francisco by Philadelphia in the Rule 5 draft last December and released March 29.

Last year, he batted .261 with 15 doubles, four triples and 43 RBI in 105 games at Double-A Connecticut. He was taken by the Giants in the 31st round of the 2004 draft.

END OF THE LINE -- David Dellucci, who was designated for assignment May 29, has been released. The Tribe had 10 days to trade him but no deal was forthcoming.

FARM FACTS -- Andy Marte had three hits and four RBI, and Jordan Brown had two hits to raise his average to .340 in Columbus' 16-3 win over Norfolk. Matt LaPorta went 3-for-3 with a home run and three RBI... Lonnie Chisenhall hit his ninth home run of the season and drove in two runs, as Kinston defeated Wilmington 3-2. Ryan Morris (3-5, 5.25 ERA) gave up two runs and four hits in six innings... Alexander Perez (4-2, 3.02 ERA)  gave up one unearned run and two hits in six innings, striking out 10. Delvi Cid had two hits and one RBI.

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