Hafner nearing return to lineup

Hafner nearing return to lineup

NEW YORK -- To say that the Indians are looking forward to having Travis Hafner back in the lineup would be a vast understatement. The way things have been going of late for the Tribe, Cleveland is more than ready for the slugger's return.

"I can't wait," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "His presence alone means a lot to our lineup. That being said, he has to be smart and make sure when he joins us that he's ready to go."

On Monday, Hafner took part in early batting practice and then spent time running the bases at Yankee Stadium. The veteran designated hitter is now scheduled to begin a Minor League rehab assignment with Double-A Akron as early as Tuesday.

Hafner -- sidelined since May 18 due to a right oblique injury -- said that he would likely play three or four games with the Aeros before rejoining the Indians. That means that the DH could be ready to be activated from the 15-day disabled list in time for the upcoming weekend home set against the Pirates.

"Everything's good," Hafner said. "They kind of mentioned probably three or four games. Something like that."

Hafner initially injured his oblique during a batting practice swing in Chicago. At the time, the DH was hitting .345 with five homers, eight doubles, 22 RBIs and a .409 on-base percentage in 32 games. Since the Tribe lost Hafner to the injury, the team has gone 8-16, and hit .224 as a team, with 3.2 runs per game on average.

"He's a key piece of our lineup -- it's no secret," Indians outfielder Michael Brantley said. "He's another threat. He was swinging the bat so well before he had the little minor injury, and we look forward to getting him back in the lineup. He drives in runs, he's a big guy, and he's a big part of our lineup."