Hafner says shoulder is strongerGOODYEAR, Ariz. — Travis Hafner’s confidence, if not his right shoulder, is as strong as ever.
GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Travis Hafner’s confidence, if not his right shoulder, is as strong as ever.
“I feel good and I’m ready to go,” the Cleveland Indians’ designated hitter said Saturday after another stringent workout at spring training camp. “This has been as good a spring as I had hoped for.”
A year ago, Hafner said the same even though his shoulder was deteriorating so rapidly that he was on the disabled list by May 26 with a paltry .217 batting average and only four homers and 17 RBIs.
The pain got so bad that he had trouble lifting a forkful of food. He tried rehabbing all summer, came back in September and hit .122 in 11 games, and finally had surgery in October.
“The surgery took care of the problem, now it is a matter of regaining my timing,” Hafner said.
Thus far, though, the 31-year-old North Dakotan hasn’t looked much like the slugger who had 127 homers and 424 RBIs from 2004 through 2007 for Cleveland. In 13 spring games, he’s batting .225 with two doubles and four RBIs.
“I’m not concerned about that at all,” Hafner said. “If I was hitting balls in batting practice with everything I had and they were falling short of the warning track, then that’s a concern.
“My power is just as good as it has been.”
The gray T-shirt Hafner often wears during workouts only points out how costly it will be to Cleveland if he doesn’t return to form. It reads “Money lies in RBIs,” on the back. The Indians obviously agree. They are committed to paying him $57 million over the next four years, with a club option for 2013.
General manager Mark Shapiro reasons that Hafner will give the Indians their money’s worth.
“I think Travis Hafner would care the same if he’s playing for $20 or $20 million,” Shapiro said. “That’s who he is.”
“We feel the only thing not there is his timing and when he gets that down, he will hit with authority.”
Hafner needs as many at-bats as possible to make that happen. At the same time, he has to guard against overdoing it.
“I’m not to that point where I can just go and take 400 swings every day,” Hafner said. “But I am on a daily routine that I would pretty much follow during the regular season.”
With Cleveland playing a series of games in National League ballparks where the DH is not used, Hafner will take his swings for Triple-A Columbus in a few minor-league games. He hit against Milwaukee Brewers farmhands on Saturday.
“He’s healthy,” hitting coach Derek Shelton said. “That’s the No. 1, most important thing. He’s healthy. Now he needs reps.”
Manager Eric Wedge has batted Hafner in the middle of the order and has not said whether he would drop him down early in the season.
“He’s working his way through it,” Wedge said. “His batting practice has been very good, but he still has to get a feel for his swing.”
Hafner maintains home runs are on the horizon.
“They come from hitting the ball consistently hard,” he said. “You center the barrel of the bat on the ball and use all fields. Then you start to drive it.”
Hafner said he has enjoyed camp this year much more than last year in Winter Haven, Fla. — and not just because of being able to work in the team’s new complex in Arizona.
“They measured my strength early in camp and it was very good in some areas, a little weaker in others,” Hafner said. “The good news is the strength has improved. A year ago, everything was dropping.”