CLEVELAND: No wonder Travis Hafner needs another day off before he is activated from the disabled list.
He spent Monday night, presumably his last on a rehab assignment with Columbus, as the Toledo Mudhens’ Toft’s Ice Cream Player of the Game. It might seem that attaining such a lofty position would be a singular honor, but it’s quite the opposite.
As the opposing player designated as the Toft’s Ice Cream Player of the Game, Hafner’s job was to strike out. If he did, the fans would receive a frozen treat.
“When I came to the plate, I heard this ding, ding, ding like an ice cream truck and then they announced me as the ice cream player of the game,” he said.
Hafner kept listening to the rest of the introduction, which included the part about striking out.
“I have a pretty good following there,” he joked. “I did have two strikes on me, but then I put the ball in play and everybody went, ‘Awww.’ ”
Hafner completed his three-game rehab assignment 1-for-10, not that anyone was fixated on his statistics. So why didn’t manager Manny Acta include him in the Indians’ lineup as the designated hitter Tuesday night against the Angels?
“It’s a recovery day for him today,” Acta said.
Hafner underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee May 24, which makes him about a week ahead of schedule.
“The knee gets a little sore off and on when I run,” he said. “But that’s common.”
Of course, the joke is, who would notice whether Hafner slowed down?
“Where am I running-wise,” Hafner said, “I’d say I’m a below-average runner. I’m pretty close to normal, and I think it will get a little bit better, but not 100 percent. At the plate overall, I feel pretty good, and I’m seeing the ball well. It’s a matter of getting my timing.”
There should be no more delays in Hafner’s return, Acta said: “There’s a very good chance he’ll be activated [today].”
The month of June was pretty much a washout for the Tribe offense, partly because Hafner was missing.
“Not having him had an affect,” Acta said. “He’s a natural on-base guy. But he shouldn’t make a difference for the guy five spots after him or five guys in front of him.
“We made it clear that in order for us to compete offensively, we need everybody to be healthy and competing to the best of their capabilities. And one guy can stretch the lineup a lot.”
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.