CLEVELAND – The Indians have handled pretty much everything en route to this surprising start to the season. Now we’ll see how they deal with adversity.
Travis Hafner was placed on the disabled list Friday with a strained right oblique muscle that is expected to sideline him for the next three to four weeks.
The oft-injured designated hitter was off to a big start, batting .345 with five home runs and 22 RBIs in 32 games.
“It’s a 6-foot-3, 240-pound blow. It’s a big blow,” manager Manny Acta said. “Obviously, he’s a big part of our lineup, and he’s been swinging the bat so good from Day 1.
“But you know what, we’ve got to deal with it. Every team is dealing with some type of injury, and it’s an opportunity for someone to step up.”
The Indians are now dealing with two injuries to key offensive cogs in Hafner and Grady Sizemore, who is on the DL with a bruised right knee.
Sizemore has been sidelined since injuring the knee on a slide into second base May 10, but he did take pregame batting practice Friday for the first time since sustaining the injury. He is eligible to leave the disabled list Thursday.
Acta said he plans on rotating players into Hafner’s DH spot from a pool that includes Shelley Duncan, Travis Buck and Austin Kearns. Duncan and Kearns will likely fill Hafner’s absence against left-handed pitchers, while Travis Buck plays against righties. Matt LaPorta could also DH when catcher Carlos Santana plays first base.
Hafner has been able to avoid the right shoulder issues that have plagued him for the past three years, but this is the second occasion that he has missed time with an injury this season. He was out for a short spell in April with a strained tendon in his foot.
The Indians promoted outfielder Ezequiel Carrera from Triple-A Columbus to fill Hafner’s roster spot and reliever Frank Herrmann to take the place of Justin Germano, who was designated for assignment Thursday.
Infielder Luis Valbuena was optioned back to Columbus.
Mitch Talbot is ready to leave the disabled list, but the Indians still haven’t announced whether he will replace Alex White or Carlos Carrasco in the rotation.
Talbot, who has been sidelined with a strained right elbow since April 17, made his third and final rehab appearance Thursday, allowing a run on four hits over four innings, while striking out five in Columbus’ postponed game against Pawtucket.
“We haven’t made that decision yet,” Acta said. “At the end of the day, we’re going to do what’s best for the team. Mitch Talbot pitched well for us before he went down and he won double digits for us last year. I think he deserves a chance to start.
“At the same time, you’ve got two young guys that are throwing the ball well.”
White (1-0, 2.75 ERA) might be the likely choice to depart after leaving his start prematurely Friday with a finger injury. Carrasco (2-2, 5.03) is scheduled to start Sunday.
The Indians won’t need to make the move until early next week, with Talbot (1-0, 1.46) set to leave the DL and return to the rotation Wednesday in the series finale with Boston.
The Indians decorated Orlando Cabrera’s locker with American flags and red-white-and-blue garland in celebration of him becoming a U.S. citizen.
“It’s extremely special,” said the 36-year-old native of Columbia. “I’m really proud to be an American. It’s another chapter in my life. I’m very happy.”
“That’s what it’s all about,” said Acta, a native of the Dominican Republic who became a U.S. citizen in 1999. “God bless America.”
Left-hander Nick Hagadone was promoted to Columbus after going 2-1 with a 1.59 ERA in 12 appearances out of Double-A Akron’s bullpen.
Hagadone, acquired along with Justin Masterson in a trade with Boston for Victor Martinez in 2009, limited Double-A batters to a .175 average, while striking out 24 over 222⁄3 innings.
• Akron outfielder Tim Fedroff stayed hot with a 2-for-3 performance (two doubles) in the Aeros’ 6-1 win over Altoona on Thursday. Fedroff, a seventh-round draft pick in 2008, entered Friday batting a team-best .352 (second in the International League) with two homers and 19 RBIs in 35 games.
The Indians entered Friday with a 34-45 all-time record against the Reds, Cincinnati winning each of the last seven series. Cleveland owned an all-time mark of 118-129 in interleague play through Thursday.
• Asdrubal Cabrera entered Friday leading AL shortstops in runs (28), hits (49) homers (seven) and RBIs (27). He was riding a 10-game hitting streak, which is two shy of his career high.
• Today’s game is sold out, the first sellout at Progressive Field since Opening Day.
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