CLEVELAND – Travis Hafner preferred to skip a minor league rehab assignment and the designated hitter got his wish Sunday with the Indians activating him from the disabled list to start in the series finale against the Mariners.
He repaid his team by hitting a pivotal grand slam in a seven-run seventh inning that powered Cleveland to a 9-1 victory over Cy Young candidate Felix Hernandez and the Mariners.
“I felt today he showed some leadership by activating himself without a rehab assignment and competing against a guy like Felix,” said manager Manny Acta. “I thought that was a great gesture by him, because he knows we need him. Even if he’s not 100 percent swing-wise, he’s a presence.”
“There’s not a whole lot of experience on the team right now,” said Hafner, who had been sidelined since July 29 with inflammation in his problematic right shoulder. “If I was healthy, I wanted to get back as soon as I could.”
After going hitless with two strikeouts in his first three at-bats Sunday, a different thought crept into his head, though.
“I should have gone on the rehab assignment,” joked Hafner, who in his fourth at-bat drove a 2-1 sinker from Hernandez over the center-field wall to put the Indians in front 6-0, chasing the Mariners’ right-hander in the process. “No, you need to get back out there and face big league pitching.”
Hafner was riding a hot streak before the injury struck, batting .448 (13-for-29) with a home run and four RBIs in eight games prior to being placed on the injured list. Though his power numbers have been down, he entered Sunday hitting a team-best .296 (58-for-196) since May 4 to raise his season average from .189 to .267.
To clear room for Hafner on the 25-man roster, the Indians optioned Jordan Brown back to Triple-A Columbus. Brown made his major league debut for Cleveland, batting .226 (7-for-31) wit four doubles and an RBI in nine games.
Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera scuffled upon leaving the disabled list, but he’s starting to pick up steam at the plate as of late.
Over his last nine games, Cabrera is batting .382 (13-for-34) with three runs, three doubles and four RBIs. He went 2-for-5 with a double and an RBI on Sunday.
The Indians are off today, beginning a three-game series in Kansas City on Tuesday (8:10 p.m.)
Jeanmar Gomez (3-0, 1.54 ERA) opens the set for Cleveland, opposing RHP Zack Greinke (7-11, 3.99), while Fausto Carmona (11-10, 3.87) starts for the Indians on Wednesday (8:10 p.m.) against LHP Bruce Chen (7-6, 4.50).
Mitch Talbot (8-9, 4.09) goes for the Indians in the series finale Thursday (8:10 p.m.), while the Royals counter with RHP Kyle Davies (6-7, 5.22).
Vinnie Pestano converted his seventh straight save opportunity Saturday in Columbus’ 1-0 victory over Louisville. Entering Sunday, Pestano, a 20th-round draft pick in 2006, had posted a 1.20 ERA with 10 saves over his last 28 appearances (30 innings, 36 strikeouts). He was 2-5 with a 2.05 ERA and 14 saves in 50 games for the Clippers and Double-A Akron. … Two of Cleveland’s top prospects, 3B Lonnie Chisenhall and RHP Alex White, loomed large in Akron’s 12-2 victory over New Britain on Saturday. Chisenhall went 3-for-4 with a three-run homer and a season-high five RBIs, while White (7-6, 2.39 ERA), the Indians’ first-round draft pick last year (15th overall), got the win, allowing just a run on three hits over six innings. White’s ERA led the Eastern League through Saturday, while his 1.09 WHIP ranked second.
Aaron Laffey (left shoulder fatigue) will begin a rehab assignment with Class A Lake County today. … The deadline to sign draft picks is midnight tonight. The Indians have signed 20 of their 50 selections, but only one in the top five. Cleveland’s first-round pick (5th overall), LHP Drew Pomeranz, is still is still unsigned.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org.