CLEVELAND — No one seems to know what’s wrong with Travis Hafner, just that the designated hitter is not right.
The Indians’ top run producer has been effective at times this season but has yet to put it all together, entering Wednesday with a .255 batting average, 17 home runs and 68 RBIs in 102 games.
“It’s just been frustrating because I haven’t been able to maintain,” said Hafner, who is hitting .132 (5-for-38) with a homer and four RBIs in his last nine games through Tuesday. “I don’t feel like I’ve been consistent. It’s frustrating when you get pitches you should handle, sometimes it just doesn’t happen. I’ve missed a lot of pitches that I’ve handled in the past.”
Hafner, a .300-plus hitter the past three seasons, said he has tinkered with his swing and made adjustments throughout the year. But nothing has paid off yet.
“There’s been some fundamental things we’ve seen this year,” said Cleveland manager Eric Wedge. “He’s had his struggles trying to correct it.”
The “Hafner Shift” has also played a part in the scuffle.
“I’ve lost quite a few hits to it,” Hafner said. “The only reason it’s been frustrating is that I’ve hit more ground balls this year. Usually when I’m going well, I’m getting the ball up and hitting more line drives. My game’s really not about finding holes with ground balls.”
Players have subpar seasons, but the Indians are counting on more from Hafner to help them to their first postseason appearance since 2001.
“That happens, but I don’t think we want to accept that,” Wedge said. “For us to do what we want to do, Travis needs to be closer to his normal self. I don’t think there’s anybody he can’t hit.”
“At the end of the day, you want to win ballgames,” Hafner said. “I understand that the better I play, the better chance we have.”
Hafner is not beating himself up over the lack of production, believing he is doing everything in his power to turn it around.
“I always feel like I do everything I can to prepare for the game. I’m not just sitting around,” he said. “So, you just live with the results, stay positive and always look forward to your next at-bat.”
As expected, reliever Fernando Cabrera was designated for assignment Wednesday, clearing the way for left-hander Aaron Fultz, who was activated from the disabled list.
Once valued as potential late-inning bullpen help, Cabrera, who must clear waivers before returning to Cleveland’s minor league system, never panned out.
“It’s been a long road with Fernando,” Wedge said. “Our timetable and his timetable just didn’t match. You saw glimpses of him being very good and you saw the flip side as well.”
Wedge did not agree that the Indians gave up on the right-hander, who was drafted by Cleveland in 1999.
“I wouldn’t say we gave up on him,” he said. “We stuck with him for a long period of time. He had ample opportunities. He just wasn’t able to be as consistent as we needed him to be.”
Fultz made his second rehab appearance on Tuesday and will be pitching for the first time since he sustained a strained muscle in his rib cage on June 22.
“Once we get him back out there and he gets comfortable, I think he’s going to help us in the back end,” Wedge said.
Buffalo’s Asdrubal Cabrera went 4-for-5 with two runs in the Bisons’ 4-3 loss to Syracuse on Tuesday. It was the second baseman’s second game since being promoted from Double-A Akron, where he hit .310 with eight homers and 54 RBIs in 96 games.
• Akron left-hander Reid Santos went 3-0 with a 2.16 ERA in five June starts and is 7-2 with a 2.77 ERA in 28 games (10 starts) for the Aeros. Santos is a 13th-round pick from the 2002 draft.
Victor Martinez was out of the lineup Wednesday with the catcher riding one his few cold streaks of the season. He is hitting .196 (9-for-46) over his last 13 games, with one hit in his last 23 at-bats.
• Entering Wednesday, the Indians were 9-14 since July 4, losing four games in the Central Division standings to the first-place Tigers.
Contact Chris Assenheimer
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