CLEVELAND -- Indians notebook from Aug. 1
He is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. Ask Indians Manager Eric Wedge why Travis Hafner isn’t hitting, and the answers take “vague” to a new level. Ask Hafner why he’s not hitting, and the answers are similarly nebulous. This much is certain, however -- something is not right with the man named “Pronk.” “It can be frustrating, but I feel like I do everything I can as far as coming to the yard and preparing,” Hafner said. “You just have to live with the results, stay positive and look forward to the next at-bat.” Hafner, who had batted third or fourth in all but five games this season, was hitting 5-for-38 (.132) from July 20 through Tuesday. A bad July for Hafner (.250) followed a bad June (.218) and a bad May (.228). His season average through Tuesday was .255, 42 points below his career average entering the 2007 season. “We’ve got two months left,” Wedge said. “For us to be where we need to be, Travis needs to be closer to his normal self. We still feel like he’s a great hitter. He’s too good not to work through this.” If Hafner were the only hitter spinning his wheels, the concern might not be as great. It seems, however, nearly the entire Cleveland batting order has struggled over the past two weeks. “When you lose, it’s even worse,” Hafner admitted. “I understand the better I play, the better our chance of winning is.” Hafner has battled elbow problems in the past, but both Wedge and the 30-year-old designated hitter said his health is fine. His on-base percentage (.382) is second on the team only to Grady Sizemore (.385). When asked about Hafner’s struggles, Wedge said, “There have been some fundamental things we’ve seen this year.” Hafner declined to go into specifics of adjustments he’s made to his hitting mechanics Wednesday, but he noted, “It’s not like I’ve kept the same swing all year.” “You know you should make some adjustments, and you know what your swing should feel like,” Hafner said. Many teams are now employing an infield shift against him, but Hafner said that is not the source of the problem. American League managers voted Hafner’s strike-zone judgment the best of any hitter in the league in Baseball America’s “best tools” survey. But, Hafner admits, his selectivity has not been nearly as big an asset this summer. “You see a lot of pitches you know you should hit,” Hafner said. “I’ve seen a lot of pitches I would have handled in the past.” Coming Up The series concludes this afternoon at 12:05. Jake Westbrook (1-6, 5.85) will start against Kason Gabbard (4-0, 3.73). The End LHP Aaron Fultz (rib cage) was activated from the disabled list Wednesday and RHP Fernando Cabrera was designated for assignment. Cabrera had informed reporters of the impending move Tuesday night. “I wouldn’t say we gave up on him,” Wedge said. “He’s had ample opportunity. He wasn’t able to be as consistent as he needs to be. His timetable and our timetable didn’t match up.” The New Guy LHP Kason Gabbard will start for Texas today instead of RHP Jamey Wright. Gabbard was obtained from Boston in the trade that sent Eric Gagne to the Red Sox. The Oxford, Ohio, native was 4-0 with a 3.73 ERA in seven starts for the BoSox. Remember Me? LHP Cliff Lee made his first start for Triple-A Buffalo on Tuesday, allowing two runs over 5 2/3 innings of a 4-3 loss at Syracuse. The downside was Lee needing to throw 112 pitches. “He felt good and threw the ball better,” Wedge said. “He’s still got some work to do.” Remember Me? Part II RHP Matt Miller allowed an earned run Tuesday for Buffalo, the first charged to the veteran sidearmer since May 15. He had made 21 consecutive appearances without allowing an earned run, covering 20 2/3 innings. On the Farm Single-A Mahoning Valley 1B Todd Martin is on pace to win the triple crown in the New York-Penn League. Martin leads the league in average (.385), home runs (8) and RBIs (35). The 24-year-old from Middle Tennessee State was signed by Cleveland after he had played five games with an independent team in Gary, Ind. Reach Repository sports writer Andy Call at (330) 580-8346 or firstname.lastname@example.org.