The Cleveland Indians activated Designated Hitter Travis Hafner from the 15-day disabled list on Friday afternoon before their three game set with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
As Interleague play starts back up for the final stretch, and the Indians coming off another loss that knocked them out of first place again, Manny Acta will get to put Pronk back into his struggling lineup. Hafner was hitting .345 with five home runs in 32 games before being placed on the disabled list with a strained right oblique.
At the time he was one of the best hitters in the American League and although he no longer qualifies, his .409 on-base percentage would place him as third best in the league. Despite missing a full month, Hafner has walked 14 times, which is just three less than Asdrubal Cabrera and only two less than Travis Buck, Austin Kearns, and Shelley Duncan combined.
Hafner originally injured himself taking batting practice during a road trip in Chicago on May 18th. Now exactly a day short of a month later, Hafner is ready to help aid an ailing offense. He completed two games of rehab with Akron this week, clubbing a double to right-center on Thursday and singling. He also scored two runs and walked in his two games.
To make room, the Indians have optioned outfielder Travis Buck to Columbus. Buck had been hitting .226 with a pair of home runs in 29 games. This is the second time he has been optioned. Buck, Kearns, and Duncan have been trying to fill the DH void, but only Kearns remains on the active roster.
Since Hafner last played, the Indians have gone 10-18. They've been shut out six times and have fallen all the way to 12th in runs scored in all of the majors. More importantly, they've gone from 15 games over .500 and easily leading their division, to trailing Detroit. At one point, the Indians had not only one of the best offenses, but the best run differential in the entire game.
Acta has continually talked about how needed Hafner is in this lineup and he'll now get to put Hafner in the cleanup spot. Hafner of course can now support one of the two hitters that haven't fallen off track, Asdrubal Cabrera, who will be in the three hole. All around, Hafner's addition isn't a cure-all, but his presence makes things tougher on pitchers and it may force them to give hitters like Choo and Santana, now hitting behind Hafner, instead of in front, better pitches to hit.
You can't blame Acta for being almost entirely giddy about Hafner returning. His two best hitters, Choo and Santana, have left a lot of be desired, and Sizemore, although pleasntly surprising, hasn't been able to get to a point to consistently carry the offense. Asdrubal Cabrera and Michael Brantley can only do so much, but the addition of Hafner may be able to get things going.
And if his insertion into the middle of the order can spark Choo or Santana to turn it on, all the better.
Lucky for the Indians, Hafner returns ahead of schedule. Originally, it was thought he would miss at least another week, which would put his return at the same time the Indians would hit the road for 12 straight interleague games. Obviously, that would minimize his effectiveness as he would only be able to get one at-bat, at the most, as a pinch hitter.
Now Hafner has six games against Pittsburgh and Colorado to hopefully make an impact and turn around a struggling offense.
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