Tribe notes from Sept. 5.
Indians players were watching baseball highlights on the clubhouse TV on Wednesday morning when the cameras showed Travis Hafner’s father, applauding one of his son’s two home runs during Tuesday night’s 11-inning victory over Minnesota.
“Hey, Pronk,” a teammate yelled across the room at Hafner. “Who’s taking care of the fields? Isn’t it harvest time?”
Hafner just smiled. He no longer has to help out on the family’s North Dakota farm, tasks he hated as a teenager. But, in a baseball context, it’s definitely harvest time for Hafner.
Cleveland’s powerful designated hitter has been swinging the bat like the Pronk of old recently. He contributed a single, an RBI double, two walks and two runs during Wednesday’s 6-2 victory over Minnesota at the Metrodome.
“I think we’re playing well,” outfielder Kenny Lofton said. “But the key is Hafner is doing well. That helps. He’s starting to pick it up. That’s big for this team.”
Hafner is batting .381 (8-for-21) with five runs scored, eight RBIs, three doubles and two home runs in his past six games.
“I’ve felt pretty good lately,” Hafner said. “I’m starting to feel like I’m more consistent.”
Consistency was hard to come by in May (.228), June (.218), July (.250) and August (.253, two home runs, nine RBIs). A good September, however, might go a long way toward erasing four months of bad memories.
“Right now, he’s as good as we’ve seen him this year,” Indians Manager Eric Wedge said. “He’s turning it up.”
No ironclad explanation has been given for Hafner’s summer of struggles (.260, 21 HR). Even a fast finish will bring him nowhere near career norms of .297 and 34 homers.
“You have seasons like that,” Wedge said. “It’s one of those things. You have some high expectations. It’s almost unfair, but it comes with the territory. And his expectations for himself are through the roof.”
Playing on a team in postseason contention certainly helps fuel a little September enthusiasm.
“This time of year is when it’s the most fun to play baseball,” Hafner said. “My main focus is on winning. I feel much better going back to my hotel room after a win than going back after a home run, a couple RBIs and a loss. This game’s all about winning.”
Hafner is careful not to speculate about what might happen if he carries a hot streak into the postseason. After all, he was around for The Great Collapse of 2005, when the Indians lost six times in the last week of the season and missed the playoffs.
“I can answer that in about a month,” Hafner said.
Bring on Sowers
It appears the Indians will try to set up LHP Jeremy Sowers to start one game during the Sept. 26 doubleheader in Seattle. “We might have to get creative with getting him games, but we’ll try to do the best we can with it,” Wedge said. The Indians plan to have Sowers start for Double-A Akron against Erie on Friday in Game 3 of the Eastern League semifinals. He could also start Game 2 of the finals, if the Aeros advance. Sowers may also pitch during the Fall Instructional League in Winter Haven, Fla., which begins Sept. 19.
A Good Guy
Hafner has been named the Indians’ winner of the 2007 Roberto Clemente Award for community service. The overall winner will be announced at Game 3 of the World Series.
Victor Martinez drove in his 99th and 100th runs of the season Wednesday. His career high is 108, in 2004.
RHP Jensen Lewis is liable to see more action down the stretch after allowing one baserunner over 2 2/3 innings during Tuesday’s 11-inning victory. Ten of his past 12 appearances are scoreless. “We’ve pitched him in quite a few meaningful situations and he’s done a good job,” Wedge said.
The Indians play 17 of their last 26 games on the road. They are 16-7 away from Jacobs Field since the All-Star break.
Reach Canton Repository sports writer Andy Call at (330) 580-8346 or firstname.lastname@example.org.