Hafner feeling healthyAt times last year Travis Hafner’s right shoulder hurt when he lifted a fork. On Sunday, he raised a bat and swung it with all his might.
GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) — At times last year Travis Hafner’s right shoulder hurt when he lifted a fork. On Sunday, he raised a bat and swung it with all his might.
When he connected, the baseball soared into the Arizona sky.
“I was happy with the flight of the ball,” he said. “It was a good first day.”
Working his way back after a disastrous 2008 ended with offseason shoulder surgery, Hafner took part in batting practice with his teammates for the first time this spring Sunday. With general manager Mark Shapiro and assistant GM Chris Antonetti watching from behind the backstop, Hafner completed three rounds of BP as important as any in his career.
“It feels good to get back on the field and hang out with your teammates,” Hafner said. “It was fun. Everything feels good. There will be a little soreness in there for a little while, but everything feels close to normal.”
The Indians are hoping Hafner returns to normal. They need the Pronk — his nickname — with pop.
Cleveland’s powerful designated hitter was reduced to the club’s highest-paid designated sitter last season. Hafner’s weak shoulder limited him to 57 games, and he batted just .197 with five homers and 24 RBIs. Months of rehab failed strengthen his shoulder and the 31-year-old remembers dinner being a painful chore.
“You’d go out to have a meal and your shoulder would burn just from eating,” he said. “If you’d do it a few times, it would wear your shoulder out. Some days it would feel better than others.”
Eventually, Hafner needed famed orthopedist Dr. James Andrews to clean out his shoulder joint. Then came more rehab, the loneliest time for any ballplayer. Hafner lives in Cleveland year-round, and as any Northeast Ohio resident can attest, the winters can be long and dreary.
But Hafner made the most of his offseason. Along with lifting weights and conditioning, he worked on improving his diet. He stayed away from fatty foods, cut down on the occasional cold beers and hired a personal chef. Hafner had his meals delivered to his home, and ended up dropping 10 pounds — he’s listed at 240 — before coming to camp looking trim.
“More ripped,” he said with a laugh.
So can the Indians count on him for 30 steals?
“I don’t want to set a limit or a bar,” he cracked. “But I’d say 30, minimum.”
While he may have lost his power stroke last season, Hafner never misplaced his sense of humor. The Sykeston, N.D., native is as good-natured as they come. And as dark as things got for him last season, and there were some difficult moments, Hafner remained upbeat that better days were ahead.
“You’re going to face adversity throughout your life,” Hafner said. “You’ve got to stay the same person and remain positive. Just because you’re hurt doesn’t mean you’re not the same guy. You’ve still got to keep a presence in the clubhouse and be a guy that’s fun to be around. You can’t just sit around and mope all the time because nobody wants to hear it.”