Manny Acta Impressed With Travis Hafner

For the past 3 years, we have had to consistently listen to trite commentary from Indians manager Eric Wedge regarding the “progress” and rehabilitation of Indians DH Travis Hafner.  Expectations, both from the fan base and front office, have been significantly lowered each and every season since his monster year of 2006 when led the league in OPS and hit 42 homers.  Pronk homered in Arizona yesterday for the second day in a row.  He has 6 hits in 22 at bats with two homers and 7 RBIs.  He has also drawn 8 walks and struck out only twice.  It’s a small sample size but the Indians are encouraged.

Both Hafner and the organization are saying that he is completely healthy and the shoulder problems that have made him an afterthought the past two seasons should not hamper him this year or become a problem.  Hafner has fallen so far off radar and expectations are so low that any sort of improvement and health would be a bonus at this point (even at $11.5 million this year).  But his ability to draw walks early in spring training, and his two homers on consecutive days have impressed Manager Manny Acta.

Acta spoke about Hafner after yesterday’s encouraging performance at the plate:

“We all felt that during the off-season when he was able to start working out earlier than he had the last year or so,” said manager Manny Acta, “that this was going to happen.”

“When you’re not healthy, you probably don’t trust your hands as much as when you’re 100 percent,” said Acta. “It takes away your ability to take pitches that are close to the zone.

“I think he started [taking pitches] early in camp. He just didn’t show the power. But he was taking pitches close to the strike zone.

“Now the power has showed up. One thing leads to the other.”

I understand these are the sort of optimistic platitudes that we have heard many times before.  Two homers in two days are encouraging, but it is definitely premature to say that the “power has showed up.”  Every year fans can read too much into spring training statistics and every year several writers continually remind us that stats in spring training are rarely predictive of  future regular season productivity.

But there has also been little written or said about the shoulder this spring which is a little bit of a change in tone when it comes to Hafner’s health.  The past couple years we would constantly hear about different percentages of shoulder strength and how Pronk was working out away from the team on different fields trying to get his mysterious loss of shoulder strength back in shape.  There were always different schedules such as 1 day in the lineup, 2 days out of the lineup.  We have not heard that similar concern coming from Goodyear this season.

Hafner had 338 ABs last season and showed flashes here and there.  But the shoulder was still a constant issue and Hafner, who does not play the field at all, was unable to consistently hit in the lineup.  Pronk’s contract is obviously ugly as he is owed $11.5 million in 2010, $13 million in 2011 and $13 million in 2012.  One has to regard Acta’s comments with skepticism because we have heard it before.  But money and expectations aside, his spring training is at least an improvement over last year in Arizona and the shoulder does appear to be in better shape.

  • S-Dub

    Well we’re gonna need him, and we can’t trade him as an expiring because the MLB sucks. So….Here’s to hoping Pronk is healthy. CHEERS!

  • sleepless in cincinnati

    Some tape measure shots.
    Timely hitting for a few years.
    Except once the scandals broke, he
    Returned to
    Invoking memories of one year wonders.
    Does it not
    Seem odd?

  • Denny

    I don’t think you know how haikus work, sleepless.

  • Karsten

    Fun fact: Thus far in spring training, the Indians have a runs for/against differential of +46. The next best team has a diff of +24. Westbrook is looking more and more prepared for the season with every start, and Hafner and Kearns were tearing it up. I liked the inside-the-park home run as well (scored as a triple, but eh)…

    If those numbers mean nothing, then forget I said anything, but I’m liking the way our guys are handling the approach to this season: Loose and very aggressive, offensively, defensively, and on the mound.

  • sleepless in cincinnati

    ha ha… was not going for the haiku, there is another message i was ‘shooting’ for. Would have been more clear if I could BOLD the first letter of each sentence. I will try harder next time.

  • Denny

    Oh, you’re subtle. Well-played.

  • Karsten

    Swing and a miss for Big Denny!

  • The Bambino

    Oh, it MUST have been steroids. Because it’sd impossible to be born country strong, lift some weights, and eat lots of food and get big. I guess most keyboard warriors wouldn’t know about such things…so yeah, it MUST have been steroids.

  • boogeyman

    Injuries didn’t help Hafner either but there are some that say that steroids can play a role in injuries too. I have no clue all I know is the current Indians lineup will need the Hafner of old and not the one we’ve been accustomed to seeing the past few seasons.

    And don’t read anything into the spring training numbers especially the offensive ones because the games are being played in Arizona where statistics go to be elevated. Once the regular season begins and games head back to the cold in the midwest and east then lets see what happens.

  • sleepless in cincinnati

    Well, I see Hafner’s mom has taken offense to my comments. My apologies Ms. Hafner. I guess its coincidental that one of the top power hitters in mlb completely falls off the map at the same time as the steriod scandal broke. Guess that means its impossible for him to have taken any performance-enhancing anything. From one keyboard warrior to another.

  • Karsten

    If there was that big of a difference, half the teams in baseball would have roughly equal elevated stats, aka the entire Cactus League. It doesn’t warp the numbers THAT much, ask the Diamondbacks. And I said I’m not reading into them a whole lot but they aren’t completely empty numbers either.

    Remember optimism, guys? Anyone?

  • barry

    i was able to watch the game against the dodgers courtesy of KCAL 9 here in LA. westbrook was a little wild, but he was wild *low* amd 8 of his outs were ground balls.

    the double in the 4th was vintage hafner – smoked down the RF line, but only after hafner worked the count to 3&1. hafner hitting with cabrera, sizemore & choo in front of him looks pretty promising.

  • The Bambino

    Not trying to be a jerk, my point is…the guy got injured. How/why he got injured, I don’t know. And neither do you. So until there is some actual evidence that Hafner was using, what’s the point of making noise about it?