By Evan Brunell
Fresh off a sweep at the hands of the Tigers, the Indians received sobering news on Travis Hafner, including the possibility that the DH could be out for the entire season.
As Jordan Bastain of MLB.com relays, Cleveland trainer Lonnie Soloff admitted that options were being weighed for Hafner, who hit the disabled list with a strained tendon in the bottom of his right foot. Currently in a walking boot, surgery might be necessary, which would finish Hafner's season and cap a season that started out as his most productive in years before a post-All Star break slump wound him down to a .281/.364/.448 mark in 319 plate appearances.
"We're in the process of seeking other medical opinions on the best course of treatment [for Hafner]," Soloff said.
If Hafner's season is truly done, the 34-year-old will have appeared in exactly half of a full season's worth of games, those 82 games representing the second-lowest in the last four seasons for the DH. But in 51 of these games, which came before the break, Hafner hit .325/.406/.528 and was a major reason for Cleveland's early surge to first place, just like his .220/.303/.339 line, along with a host of injuries to numerous Indians players, have helped sink the Indians into 5 1/2 games behind Detroit.
Fortunately, the loss of Hafner came after the return of outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, who returned from injury himself and is back to manning right field, with Kosuke Fukudome and Michael Brantley occupying the other two outfield spots. It's not clear who the DH the rest of the way will be, although first baseman Matt LaPorta was the DH on Monday with Carlos Santana playing first and Lou Marson catching. While you can expect that alignment to happen again, partly to rest Santana behind the plate, it doesn't figure to become the permanent configuration.
That permanent configuration could come when Grady Sizemore returns. Sizemore was scorching hot for 11 games in late April once he was activated off the DL for the injury that robbed Sizemore of much of his 2010 season. However, Sizemore slumped in early May before returning to the DL, then didn't get into a groove through the entirety of June, a waste offensively through that time period. Just when he heated up in July, he hit the shelf once more with a sports hernia. Now, Soloff reports further progress in Sizemore's rehab. The center fielder is expected to run agility/sprint drills in Cleveland on Tuesday, before graduating to batting practice Wednesday. Sizemore told reporters that he hoped to be in rehab games by the end of next week, which is also the start of September.
"I trust [Sizemore's] self-evaluation, but that's not outlined as of yet," Soloff cautioned as far as a timetable for rehab games goes. "We have a lot of hurdles to get over."
One potential way for the Indians to get Sizemore back and keep him healthy would be to keep him out of center and let Fukudome roam it for the rest of the year. Hafner's season-ending injury -- if in fact, it is season-ending -- would clear the way for Sizemore to DH. For now, the Indians have to plan on Sizemore returning at full strength to take the field.
Soloff also updated reporters on starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco's injury. After being placed on the 15-day disabled list with a right-elbow injury, Carrasco is working on increasing range of motion and will not return to the majors until after Sept. 1.
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