Pronk nearly ready to return

Pronk nearly ready to return

CLEVELAND -- Travis Hafner is deathly afraid of needles. But if the needle poked in his shoulder Tuesday keeps him off the disabled list, he's all for it.

Hafner received a cortisone injection Tuesday to treat the inflammation in his right shoulder that has kept him out of the lineup throughout the Tribe's three-game series with the White Sox.

"I'm hoping to be back in the lineup Friday," Hafner told reporters before Wednesday's series finale. "The cortisone shot should help it a lot."

Pronk revealed that this is the second time this season he's received such an injection. He received the other before the Indians opened a three-game series in Minnesota on April 18. Hafner missed the first game of that series.

The shoulder has given Pronk problems since the middle of March. Hafner said he had an MRI exam that revealed no structural damage.

"It's soreness and weakness," Hafner said. "It's more of a big deal when it flares up."

After Wednesday's game, head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff confirmed that Hafner's shoulder does not have structural damage and that Hafner is dealing with an "irritated joint."

Hafner said the shoulder gradually began to flare up in recent days, prompting this latest stretch of down time.

Manager Eric Wedge said Tuesday that he would consider placing Hafner on the 15-day disabled list if the designated hitter wasn't in playing shape by Friday, when the Indians open an 11-game road trip in Kansas City.

Hafner said he hasn't heard one word about going on the DL.

"We really haven't discussed it at this point," he said. "Hopefully it will be good with the shot and will get better along the way."

Pronk is not using the shoulder as a scapegoat for his ongoing offensive woes. Coming off a down year in '07, he has hardly rebounded. Hafner is batting just .217 with four homers and 22 RBIs in 46 games this season.

"If I'm in the lineup, I expect to be productive," Hafner said. "If it flares up, that's when it gets tough to swing. That's usually when I need a day off."

Hafner did not indicate that the shoulder has given him problems before this year.

Already under pressure to improve at the plate, this injury concern is another obstacle for Hafner, who turns 31 next week.

"It's just part of it," he said. "I can't feel sorry for myself. I'm optimistic it will feel good Friday, and I'll get things going."

Hafner hopes the cortisone helps, even if it did have to come through a needle. How did he react to the shot?

"I was hiding in a corner," he said with a laugh.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.