CLEVELAND — Travis Hafner was activated from the disabled list Wednesday, with the designated hitter returning to the lineup after missing nearly two months with lower back inflammation.
Manager Manny Acta said Hafner would play three times a week for the remainder of the season.
“We’re a better team when Hafner is in the lineup,” Acta said. “Hafner has been here a long time and if he’s ready, he deserves to play, plus, he’s not going to be taking any at-bats away from the guys that we really need to see.”
First baseman Casey Kotchman is expected to lose playing time with the activation of Hafner. The Indians want to take a long look at prospect Russ Canzler, with Canzler expected to play first and left field, while serving as the DH when Hafner is out of the lineup.
This might be the Cleveland swan song for Hafner, who has endured yet another injury-plagued season. He entered Wednesday having in played in just 60 games, while batting .239 with 11 home runs and 32 RBIs.
The Indians own a $13 million club option on Hafner for next season, which is not expected to be exercised, but Cleveland will still owe him a $2.75 million buyout. General manager Chris Antonetti said the team would entertain re-signing Hafner at a reduced rate.
Playing it out
Acta said he is satisfied with his players’ approach after falling out of contention.
“They’ve been pretty good,” he said. “Some of those guys are obviously a little fatigued, but it’s been a good response. It hasn’t been easy on anybody here. Nobody is hiding that fact.”
Acta scoffed at some fans’ notion that the team has quit.
“Just because you’re not winning as much as you want to win that doesn’t mean that you quit,” Acta said. “It’s somebody’s opinion. People are always going to find something to say good or bad, even when we we’re going good, people had something to complain about.
“Sometimes effort is not enough to win ballgames. Sometimes the other team is just better than you.”
The third-year manager said the final month of the season will be used to gauge talent for 2013.
“It’s time to evaluate and see character,” Acta said. “That’s something that is being evaluated. Who can handle it? Who can’t? Who’s going to point fingers? Who’s going to take responsibility? Who’s going to move forward? Who’s going to keep the head down for too long? Those are things that we are evaluating and making sure that we notice and take into consideration for the future.”
Roberto Hernandez (ankle) threw a bullpen session Tuesday, but Acta said the right-hander would not be activated in the coming days.
“He’s OK throwing the ball,” Acta said. “He’s still not moving around 100 percent. The next bullpen and workout will dictate what we’re going to do moving forward.”
Hernandez, 32, has made only three starts for Cleveland this year — 0-3, 7.53 ERA — with the Indians owning a $6 million club option on him in 2013.
“It makes it tough (to evaluate), but that’s out of my box,” Acta said. “We have to wait and see and how we’re doing depth-wise in pitching and what’s out there, but it’s not part of what I do.”
Carlos Santana entered Wednesday ranked among the top 20 in a number of offensive categories over the second half of the season — 20 extra-base hits (ninth), .906 OPS (12th), 38 RBIs (13th), .525 slugging percentage (14th), .380 on-base percentage (14th) and 11 homers (17th). He led the Indians with 16 homers and 68 RBIs in 131 games through Tuesday. … Today, 12:05, STO/WTAM 1100-AM. Kluber (1-4, 4.58) vs. Vasquez (0-2, 7.53).
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