The 2011 baseball season has barely begun, but there are some positive signs for the Cleveland Indians.
Pitchers deep in the rotation have pitched late into ballgames against the talent laden squads of Chicago and Boston.
Names like Carlos Santana, Orlando Cabrera and Jack Hannahan have provided offensive pop for the Tribe.
Perhaps most notably, however, is the resurgence of Indians DH Travis Hafner.
The Indians acquired Hafner from the Texas Rangers in the winter of 2002. He showed promise in 2003 before exploding onto the MLB scene in 2004. Hafner would go on to finish in the top-10 in slugging percentage, doubles, extra base hits, RBI and batting average.
The success would continue for the next three years, making Travis a household name. His popularity increased so much that a part of the stadium was designated “Pronkville.”
2007 marked a significant drop off for the slugger. With ongoing contract negotiations as a backdrop, Hafner did not put up the numbers he was accustomed to. The next three years were full of injuries that led many to doubt if he could ever return to form.
Enter 2011: Expectations were high heading into the season. As reported by Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Travis Hafner said “Our goal is to win the division and make the playoffs. We have a lot of development to do, but we feel like we have the talent in the room to do it."
They are a long way from that goal right now, but the pop in his bat has been encouraging. Four games in and the Indians sit at 2-2.
Travis is a big reason why.
Chris Assenheimer of the Chronicle Online reported the following statement from Hafner: “If I’m hitting for a high average the power will come, and certainly the RBI numbers will be up.”
He went on to say: “I’m just trying to get back to the hitter I used to be.”
So far, so good. Hafner enters tonight’s game against Boston with a .375 batting average, including a .625 slugging percentage with five runs scored.
Chris Assenheimer went on to quote Indians Manager Manny Acta: “I think if he stays healthy, I think you can expect him to hit 25 home runs and drive in 90 to 100 runs. He has to be out there. That’s the main thing.”
Travis is seeing the ball well. Even his outs are impressive. In the series against the Chicago White Sox, Hafner shattered his bat and still just missed on a home run.
Again, Chris Assenheimer from the Chronicle Online quotes Travis Hafner: “It’s good to get off to a good start…I feel good swinging the bat. I’m just hoping to continue that.”
Whether or not Hafner finds continued success is a matter of health and endurance over the long baseball season.
At this point however, all signs point to Pronkville.