Pronk back at it: Sykeston native has successful return to IndiansIn his first professional at-bat since going on the disabled list in late May, Travis Hafner showed the kind of big-league patience that’s made him one of the most feared designated hitters in the American League.
By: By Chris Aarhus, The Jamestown Sun, The Jamestown Sun
In his first professional at-bat since going on the disabled list in late May, Travis Hafner showed the kind of big-league patience that’s made him one of the most feared designated hitters in the American League.
The Sykeston native gave Los Angeles Angels pitcher Ervin Santana a battle, coercing an 11-pitch walk that set up a three-run bomb from Michael Brantley in the Cleveland Indians’ 12-3 win on Wednesday.
“An 11-pitch at-bat, that’s kind of what I needed,” Hafner said. “To see a bunch of pitches and get my timing that way. That helped me settle in. I felt pretty good up there.”
Hafner, commonly nicknamed Pronk, finished 1-for-3 with a pair of walks.
“It’s great,” said Hafner, who went missed more than a month with a right-knee injury. “You can’t do that when you’re sitting and watching the game. That’s really hard to deal with. I’m really happy to be back with my teammates and out there playing.”
Hafner did a short rehab stint with triple A-Columbus before rejoining the Indians, where he encountered many club’s top propects.
“It’s different in a sense that everybody down there is 20 to 26 (years old),” Hafner said. “I know a lot of those guys. I enjoy the opportunity to talk to those guys, especially about any hitting questions they have. I try to teach them anything I can and help them.”
Hafner was hitting .242 with six home runs and 23 RBIs before making his sixth trip to the DL in five years. The slugger said, at times, he still feels the effects of the surgery.
“Everything feels pretty good, but there’s days where it’s sore to run on,” Hafner said. “It’s supposed to heal through six weeks and it’s been five weeks. It’s common for it to be sore running and everything. It’s something I have to work through. The most important thing is watching for inflammation. If I keep that up, there won’t be any issues.”
For someone who uses his legs to drive the ball as much as Hafner does, a right knee injury can be devastating to a swing. Still, Hafner’s confident it won’t affect him.
“My legs are pretty key in my swing; I just try to make my swing as simple as possible, especially now that I haven’t played in a while,” Hafner said. “Use as little movement as possible and see the ball and use your hands. Keep everything simple and try not to do too much.”
Cleveland sits second in the AL Central behind the Chicago White Sox, but Hafner said he sees the team moving up if the offense can generate a little more scoring, also noting that the team’s pitching and defense has been “pretty good.”
“I feel like, offensively, we could be more consistent,” Hafner said. “It feels like we have a group that has a chance to be really productive. We’re pretty good at getting on base, and the lineup is deep enough. Everybody has to contribute. We’ll need a good effort from everybody on the roster.”
Sun sports writer Chris Aarhus can be reached at (701) 952-8462 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org