April 20, 2014

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Hafner is way overdue – Tribe Notes

CLEVELAND — Any day now.
That’s when the Indians are expecting Travis Hafner to shake off an offensive funk that has pretty much followed him through the first 2½ months of the season.
“Travis has always led the way for us offensively,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said of the team’s top run producer the past three years. “What he needs to do is exactly what we need to do, keep plugging away. You’ve got to believe it’s going to happen.”
So far, it hasn’t.
Hafner, who was out of the lineup Sunday, is hitting .262 with 10 home runs and 46 RBIs through 65 games. At this pace, Hafner, who has batted no worse than .305 with at least 28 homers and 108 RBIs the past three seasons, would finish the year hitting .262 with 20 homers and 94 RBIs.
It gets worse.
Hafner is batting just .209 with runners in scoring position and hitting just .211 in June after producing a .228 average in May. He has just two extra-base hits in 65 plate appearances since hitting a homer in his first at-bat against the Tigers on May 31.
A problematic right elbow, which has hampered Hafner in the past, isn’t the problem this time around, according to Wedge.
“Physically, he’s OK, knock on wood,” Wedge said. “The guy has worked hard. He’s doing a good job of trying to get out of this.”
Blake bit
In addition to standing as the big league’s longest hitting streak this season, Casey Blake’s 26-game streak is also the longest by a Cleveland player since Sandy Alomar hit in 30 straight games in 1997.
The club record is 31, set in 1906 by Hall of Famer Nap Lajoie.
Next up
The Indians complete the home portion of their interleague schedule, hosting Charlie Manuel and the Philadelphia Phillies in a three-game series that begins tonight at 7:05.
Cliff Lee (3-4, 6.04) opens the set for Cleveland, opposing left-hander Cole Hamels (9-2, 3.47).
Jason Stanford (1-0, 1.50) and C.C. Sabathia (9-2, 3.19) are the scheduled starters Tuesday (7:05 p.m.) and Wednesday (7:05), while the Phillies counter with right-handers Kyle Kendrick (0-0, 4.50) and Jon Lieber (3-5, 4.21).
Former Indian Jose Mesa, released by the Tigers a couple of weeks ago, is in Philadelphia’s bullpen.
A bad coach
Former Indians bench coach and current Los Angeles Dodgers manager Grady Little defended the team’s recent firing of former Cleveland hitting coach Eddie Murray in this way:
“We didn’t fire a Hall of Fame hitter. We fired a hitting coach,” Little told the Los Angeles Daily News.
Murray was hitting coach in Cleveland for 3½ years, getting fired during the 2005 season.
Minor details
Former Indians reliever Paul Shuey, who is attempting a comeback with the New York Mets, pitched a scoreless inning for Triple-A Norfolk in a 3-0 loss to Buffalo on Saturday. Shuey was drafted by Cleveland, playing here from 1994-2002.
l Double-A Akron’s Trevor Crowe, the Indians’ top draft choice (14th overall) in 2005, had three hits in a 9-6 victory over Portland, but was still batting just .196 in 61 games.
l Josh Tomlin, a 19th-round pick in last year’s draft, is still perfect after allowing four runs on eight hits in five innings of Class A Lake County’s 12-4 victory over West Virginia in the first game of a doubleheader Saturday. Tomlin, a Texas Tech product, is 6-0 with a 3.06 ERA in 18 games (seven starts) for the Captains.
Roundin’ third
The Indians drew at least 100,000 fans (103,430) for the third consecutive weekend series.
l Franklin Gutierrez stole the first base of his career in Cleveland’s four-run sixth inning.
l Atlanta’s Chipper Jones recorded his 2,000th career hit with a single in his first at-bat in the second inning off Cleveland starter Fausto Carmona.
l Fox 8 will televise the Indians’ game in Minnesota on Aug. 4 nationally, which means the game has moved from a 7:10 p.m. start to 3:55.
l In town for a concert Sunday night, recording artists the Barenaked Ladies sang the national anthem, with drummer Tyler Stewart throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7137 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com.