CLEVELAND -- As far as manager Eric Wedge is concerned, the past couple months of Travis Hafner's season are not nearly as important as the last couple of months will be. So Wedge remains optimistic that Hafner's relative struggle to live up to his own enormous potential will come to an end when it counts. "The best thing is, the most important two months are ahead of us," Wedge said. "It's not so much where he is now [that matters]; it's where he's going to be."More
Hafner has been in the middle of the Indians' lineup all season, despite his inability to drive the ball as consistently as he has in the past. He entered Wednesday's game ranking first in the league in walks, with 72, but his 16 homers, 12 doubles and .442 slugging percentage pale in comparison with his numbers at this point one year ago (29 homers, 15 doubles and a .642 slugging percentage). The Indians can only hope Hafner has an August looming that is similar to his August of '06, when he hit .361 with 16 homers and 30 RBIs. Is Pronk, the recent recipient of a four-year contract extension, showing signs that he has such a month in him? Well, not according to the numbers. Hafner was hitless in the Indians' last four games -- a span of 16 at-bats -- and is batting .237 (9-for-38) over his last 10 games. "Every night you get a feel that this is going to be the night, and he's going to keep going," Wedge said. "He's such a good hitter, and he's going to help us by getting on base. But I still believe he's going to really start driving the ball in the last couple of months. He hit a couple balls right on the screws up the middle in Texas, where they had the shift on him, and someone was right behind second base." Proud papa: Brad Mills didn't have to look far for an opinion on the state of the Indians organization when the Tribe took his son, Beau, with the 13th overall pick in last month's First-Year Player Draft. Mills, Boston's bench coach, merely had to turn to Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell, the Indians' former farm director. "We talked quite a bit about the organization," Mills said. "Even before the Draft, when it looked like [Beau] was going to go in that area, we talked." Beau has hit .264 (28-for-106) with four homers and 22 RBIs in his first 26 games at low-Class A Lake County. The Indians are getting him acclimated to first base. He played third in college. The elder Mills said that his son, who has homered in each of his last two games, didn't have major qualms about learning a new position. "He's got a good outlook with that right now," Mills said. "He has the outlook that it's a new position that will help speed his process along. If you start rejecting it or saying 'I don't like it,' it's going to hurt your learning curve." Here's the question ...: C.C. Sabathia, who turned 27 last week, is the active wins leader (94) among all Major Leaguers under the age of 28. Who is the only active pitcher under the age of 29 who has more career wins than Sabathia? Language barrier: When Farrell joined the Red Sox over the offseason, one of his first orders of business was to learn how to speak Japanese in order to ease his dealings with Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima. And as Farrell can attest, it's a difficult language to master. "Minimal," is how he described his Japanese-language skills. "I'm able to talk about schedule-type information, and numbers and days. But their ability to speak English is a lot better than my ability to speak Japanese." Book report: The Harry Potter craze has found its way into the Indians' clubhouse. First baseman Ryan Garko has been hooked on the books since Minor League teammate Mike Kinkade introduced him to the series in 2005. So, naturally, Garko had to pick up a copy of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" to see how the series ends. But the reading has been slow going so far. As of Wednesday afternoon, Garko had finished just 100 pages and was struggling to meet his goal of finishing the book before he unwittingly overhears how it ends. "I keep leaving it at the yard," Garko said. Tribe tidbits: Aaron Fultz's 25-pitch bullpen session went off without a hitch on Wednesday. Fultz, recovering from a rib strain that landed him on the 15-day disabled list earlier this month, will throw either another bullpen session or a simulated game on Friday, then should be ready to go out for his first rehab assignment in the Minors on Sunday. ... Left fielder David Dellucci, who is on the 60-day DL with a left hamstring strain, still hasn't progressed in his rehab to the point of doing baseball-type activities. The Indians estimate that he could be ready for game action by mid- to late-August. ... The Indians' athletic trainers will hold their third annual PLAY campaign from 11 a.m. to noon ET on Thursday at Jacobs Field. Outfielder Jason Michaels will take part in the program, which seeks to raise awareness among youth about the importance of exercise, proper nutrition and healthy decision-making in their daily lives. Down on the farm: Right-hander Jeff Harris gave up just one run on three hits over seven innings, but a lack of offense did him in, as Triple-A Buffalo fell, 2-0, to Charlotte on Tuesday. ... Left-hander Scott Lewis gave up four runs on six hits over four innings in Double-A Akron's 6-2 loss to Harrisburg. ... Center fielder Jose Costanza hit a three-run double and right-hander James Deters gave up just one run on three hits over five innings, but Class A Kinston fell, 5-3, to Potomac. ... Mills' two-run homer in the ninth wasn't enough to complete a comeback in Lake County's 6-3 loss to Lexington. Right-hander Hector Rondon gave up two runs on seven hits over five innings to take the loss. And the answer is ...: White Sox left-hander Mark Buehrle, who will turn 29 next March, has 104 victories. On deck: The Indians wrap up their four-game set with the Red Sox at 7:05 p.m. on Thursday. Left-hander Cliff Lee (5-6, 5.67 ERA) will take on left-hander Kason Gabbard (4-0, 2.97).
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less