Travis Hafner has officially started a rehab assignment, having played for Columbus on Wednesday night, as he works his way back from surgery on his right knee that he had in late May. Manny Acta said, as reported by Jordan Bastian of MLB.com, that it is "realistic" that Hafner could join the Indians in Cleveland when the Tribe returns to Progressive Field to battle the Los Angeles Angels.
Hafner's power will be welcomed back, but he isn't the right-handed addition that the Indians need in the middle of the order. Regardless, his return will leave an interesting decision for the Tribe, as a roster spot will be needed. Below are the names of those who could go. Who do you think should?
You can't get rid of anyone in the bullpen, as you only have seven guys down there anyway. You could shorten the bullpen and send Nick Hagadone to Triple-A. Hagadone has struggled in his last nine appearances, allowing 12 earned runs in 7.1 innings, bad for a 14.74 ERA. While the Indians can use his powerful left arm, he needs to get back on track.
Johnny Damon. Sore subject. I wrote about what I would do with Damon here, but in reality, he is hot right now. A blind squirrel can find a nut, but a .370/.414/.703 line, with three doubles, two home runs and seven RBI over the last nine games is impressive. Maybe, due to his age, it took him longer to get going, and he didn't have spring training. Have we been too tough on him?
Lonnie Chisenhall isn't playing third base every day and that is a shame. You can't call up prospects and put them on the bench, it is a waste of time for them. Chisenhall isn't as good defensively as Jack Hannahan, but he also hasn't been around the league rotting with a career .233/.317/.359 line over six seasons in the majors. Has anyone noticed that Hannahan, 32, is hitting .209/.264/.328 line since the start of May? Chisenhall is hitting .277/.288/.477 when he starts and when the Indians win (10-8 when he starts), Chisenhall is hitting .324/.342/.649. Who should go? Hannahan or Chisenhall?
Aaron Cunningham. Talk about dead weight—he's fifth outfielder on an American League team who is hitting .183/.266/.211 in 81 at bats. You're telling fans that having him on the roster because he can play all three outfield positions is better than trying Jason Donald (a utility player who could be tried in the outfield), Ezequiel Carrera (I don't care if he is left-handed) or Thomas Neal (Double-A outfielder, 24-years-old, can play all three positions and has some right-handed pop) in the same role?
Whoever gets the axe when Pronk returns, it is a good thing to have his bat in the lineup. He was hitting only .242 when he was hurt, but he had a .380 on-base percentage (first on the team) and an .819 OPS (third on team, behind Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo).