April 18, 2014

Medina
Mostly cloudy
54°F

Indians notes: Hafner has become weak link

CLEVELAND – Travis Hafner probably wouldn’t have been in the lineup against a tough left-hander such as Saturday’s Rays starter David Price, but there’s no denying the designated hitter has become a weak link.

Even with better statistics as of late, Hafner is batting just .251 in 79 games. His power numbers have lagged mightily – eight home runs, 32 RBIs and a .405 slugging percentage that is lower than infielder Jason Donald’s.

“He’s working on some things right now but it’s just been inconsistent,” said manager Manny Acta. “I know over the last few weeks his numbers have been better, but right now, something’s not right.

“When he’s locked in, he doesn’t chase pitches out of the strike zone, and I saw him chase three pitches in one at-bat (Friday) night. He needs to relax.”

Hafner looks as though he is still working his way back from right shoulder problems that have plagued him for close to three years.

“Whether he’s 100 percent healthy or not, he’s as healthy as he’s been in awhile,” Acta said. “I’m expecting him to be a big contributor in the middle of our lineup.”

Fans are beginning to get on Hafner, who looked out of place in striking out twice in three at-bats during Cleveland’s rain-shortened 3-1 win Friday. He was booed after both strikeouts left runners on base.

Acta still has his back.

“My money’s on him,” he said. “This guy has hit his whole life.”

Back in business

Austin Kearns returned to the lineup following a three-game absence with a sore right knee. Kearns, who entered the night batting .198 (21-for-106) in 30 games since June 12, played left field and hit sixth.

Wood’s world

Closer Kerry Wood (blister right index finger) played catch at Progressive Field on Saturday. Acta said the right-hander would work a bullpen session today or Monday.

Wood is eligible to leave the disabled list on Wednesday.

Rotation replacement

Carlos Carrasco may be the pitcher promoted to take Aaron Laffey’s spot in the rotation after all. The right-hander was removed from his last outing with Triple-A Columbus with stiffness in his forearm, but according to Acta, Carrasco’s most recent side session went well.

The other likely candidates, Columbus’ Jeanmar Gomez and David Huff would be pitching on short rest.

Acta said he would announce Laffey’s replacement after the series finale with Tampa Bay today.

Reyes on rehab

Right-hander Anthony Reyes was at Progressive Field in preparation for a minor league rehab outing at Double-A Akron today. Reyes made two appearances for Cleveland’s Arizona League team (0-1, 4.15 ERA) and is expected to pitch three innings (50 pitches) for the Aeros.

Acta said the plan was for Reyes, a member of Cleveland’s rotation in 2008 and ‘09 before Tommy John surgery, to be activated in September and join the bullpen or rotation, then come to spring training as a starter.

Walk like a man

Carlos Santana, 24, continues to exhibit patience at the plate that is rarely seen in a first-year player. Entering Saturday, Santana had walked 34 times, while striking out 23 times.

“I’ve been very impressed,” Acta said. “Even when he’s 0-2, he usually winds up working the count to 2-2, 3-2. He seems to be in a 3-2 count a lot. He doesn’t chase. It’s very unusual, but I think everybody has seen it coming. Even when he was at A-ball, he was walking.”

Minor details

Gomez pitched well in his first start back at Columbus on Friday, allowing a run on six hits, while striking out seven in eight innings of a 5-3 victory over Pawtucket. … Akron’s Matt McBride hit his 16th homer of the season and drove in three runs Friday in a 7-6 loss to Reading.

Roundin’ third

Cleveland entered Saturday out of fifth place in the Central Division for the first time since June 12. … The Indians’ 18-game home winning streak is currently the longest in the majors and the longest since Milwaukee won 22 straight at home against the Pirates. Cleveland owns the big league record in the department, winning 27 straight over the Browns/Orioles from 1952-54. … Today, 1:05, Channel 3/WTAM 1100-AM/WEOL 930-AM. Masterson (3-8, 5.25) vs. Davis (7-9, 4.41).

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com.