CLEVELAND: Travis Hafner might be back in the Indians’ lineup at designated hitter as early as tonight.
“Hopefully, we’ll get him this homestand,” manager Manny Acta said on Tuesday. “He’s continuing to simulate at-bats in batting practice.”
If this were another season, there would be cause for optimism among the fans at the prospect of Hafner’s return. But he has been beset by so many injuries the past four years, there is small belief among Tribe partisans that he will remain healthy for long.
Hafner, 35, is in the last guaranteed season of his contract, but the Indians can exercise a $13 million option for 2013 if they intend to keep him. If they don’t, there is a $2.75 million buyout.
You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who follows the fortunes of the team that thinks the option will be exercised, given the fact that Hafner has missed 374 games since 2008. So why don’t the Tribe’s deep thinkers send Hafner home and save the at-bats he will take for a young player who needs more scrutiny?
The answer is simple: “Regardless of who you are, you should play if you’re healthy,” Acta said. “He also makes us a better club when he’s in the lineup.”
Acta said he didn’t know how much Hafner would play.
“It depends on what our medical staff recommends,” Acta said.
However, it is unlikely that Hafner will be in the lineup every day for the last two weeks of the schedule.
Regardless of how much he plays, someone will have to move aside when he is in the lineup.
“We’ll find a place for Russ Canzler at first to get him at-bats,” Acta said. “The guy who probably will play less is Casey Kotchman.”
Kotchman is the Indians’ regular first baseman, who is not guaranteed to be back next year.
Canzler was a September call-up who amassed a career minor-league high 22 home runs at Triple-A Columbus. He is not considered a wizard with his glove, but he is serviceable at two positions: left field and first, which is considered his best.
He has played more than any other minor-leaguer summoned this month, an indication that the Tribe will consider him a strong candidate to take over the DH role in 2013, barring an offseason acquisition.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.