CLEVELAND — Travis Hafner was in the lineup for the season finale Wednesday night at Progressive Field. It may have been his final time in an Indians uniform.
The odds of Hafner returning are slim, with Cleveland owning a $13 million club option on the designated hitter in 2013 that will not be exercised and he will be paid a $2.75 million buyout as a result.
Hafner said he plans on playing next year and there has been talk of the Indians re-signing him at a reduced rate, but that seems like a long shot.
If it is the end of Hafner’s career in Cleveland, it was one that began with loads of promise but never materialized into the stardom most expected.
Injuries played a major part in Hafner’s lack of production. After batting over .300 three times in four years (2004-07), while averaging just over 31 home runs and driving in over 100 runs each season, right shoulder problems surfaced. From 2008-11, Hafner played in just 363 games.
This has been another injury-plagued season, with Hafner entering Wednesday batting .228 with 12 homers and 34 RBIs in 65 games.
“Certainly, that’s been the most frustrating thing,” Hafner said, “missing time and not being able to play full seasons. It’s been very frustrating. But, at the same time, I feel like I work as hard as anybody in the offseason to stay healthy and to be in shape. There’s really nothing more that I could have done.”
Big League Choo
Outfielder Shin-Soo Choo claims he wants to stay put, but he will enter the offseason as one of the Indians’ more tradable players — with just one more year remaining before he is eligible for free agency.
“I want to come back, but as I’ve said earlier, I can’t control that,” Choo said. “I want to stay here, but it’s not easy. The team makes the decision. If the team says, ‘Go, I’ll go.’ I hope I can come back here.”
It wasn’t a breakthrough year for Choo — .283 with 16 homers and 67 RBIs through Tuesday — but he was able to stay healthy after an injury-plagued 2011.
“My first goal is always that the team makes the playoffs,” he said. “We didn’t make the playoffs this year. The second goal is I want to play as many games as possible. I think I made that goal this year. I played 155 games this year.
“I’m happy. I can’t hit 20 homers or hit .300, but I played many games and I’m healthy. I’m happy with this season.”
Alomar Jr. praised Choo.
“He’s ready to play every day,” he said. “He’s been very durable this year. He’s a tough kid. He comes to the ballpark ready to play every day. That’s what you want from your horses, guys that are ready to play through injuries and stuff like that.”
Justin Masterson was an ace only in name this season, finishing the year with an 11-15 record and 4.93 ERA in 34 starts.
“He’s a hard-working guy, so I’d imagine he’s put pressure on himself,” Alomar Jr. said. “If you ask him he’d probably tell you he hasn’t performed the way he should. Last year he came in here and performed very well and gave us a chance to win every day. That’s how tough baseball is. Every year is different. He hasn’t the command this year that he normally would like to have.”
Masterson went 12-10 with a 3.21 ERA in 34 games (33 starts) last year.
“For the most part, it happened the way it happened,” Masterson said of his performance this season. “I’ve learned from it and grown from it.”
Alomar Jr. will interview for the Indians manager job for the first time today at Progressive Field.
“I’ll do my business and if it’s good enough for the organization, it will be good enough,” Alomar Jr. said. “If it’s not, then I’m sure they will decide on someone else. I know that I can do it.”
Former Red Sox manager Terry Francona is scheduled for his first interview Friday. There have been reports that Francona is the frontrunner, with others expected to join the mix.
“I’m competing against a guy that has all these accolades and postseason stuff like that,” Alomar Jr. said of Francona, who won two World Series as manager of the Red Sox. “I’m me. With all due respect to Terry. I’m me. I’m myself.”
If Alomar Jr. gets the job, he would be just the second Puerto Rican manager in big league history, joining current Advanced Class A Carolina manager Edwin Rodriguez, who managed the Marlins from 2010-11.
Team president Mark Shapiro planned on meeting with fans in the stands during the early portion of Wednesday’s game.
Shapiro tweeted: “I am looking forward to our final game tonight and exciting times ahead for the Tribe.”
A crowd of 18,093 fans gave the Indians 1,603,596 in season attendance. … The Indians entered the final game of the season with 110 stolen bases, the most since 113 in 2000. … Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera was not in the lineup for the season finale. Cabrera was an All-Star for the second straight year but also faded in the second half for the second straight season, finishing with a .270 batting average, 16 homers, 68 RBIs and 19 errors in 143 games.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.