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News gets better on rehab front

News gets better on rehab front

TORONTO -- Travis Hafner is taking soft-toss, and Victor Martinez is taking batting practice.

Hafner might be ready to take BP with the Tribe by the end of next week, and Martinez might be ready to go out on a rehab assignment by the middle of next week.

These developments are not quite the same as having their Nos. 3 and 4 hitters back in the lineup, but the Indians will take them as a major signs of progress.

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Hafner is finally making progress in the strengthening of his right shoulder. Weakness in the shoulder landed him on the disabled list May 30, and a strength program geared around the shoulder had stagnant results for weeks.

But the latest test on the shoulder, performed Thursday in Cleveland, found that Hafner's right shoulder now has 75 percent of the strength in his left, according to head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff. Given that result, Hafner was cleared to begin taking soft-toss from hitting coach Derek Shelton on Thursday, and he'll progress to overhand BP in the cage early next week if all goes well in his next round of soft-toss Saturday.

Shelton threw Hafner two sets of 15 tosses.

"He was free and easy, not a lot of effort to it," Shelton said. "He was very good. I was encouraged."

Once Hafner is able to take 60 tosses without complication, he'll be ready to take BP with the team. And once Pronk tolerates that activity, he'll be ready for a rehab assignment. The Indians hope his shoulder strength will be at 80-85 percent by the end of the season, but they've determined he can play at 75 percent.

This is the first good news the Indians have had on Hafner, who was batting .217 with four homers and 22 RBIs when he went on the DL.

"There's a light in Haf's eye, too, which is good to hear," manager Eric Wedge said. "He's seeing [a return] is not too far away."

A return is even closer for Martinez, coming back from right elbow surgery, and second baseman Josh Barfield, coming back from surgery on his left middle finger.

Martinez had his second full workout day Friday, taking BP, running the bases and throwing to the bases from behind the plate. Wedge said Friday's activity was an improvement on Wednesday's action in St. Petersburg vs. the Rays.

"If everything goes well, he'll go on a rehab assignment at some point next week," Soloff said. "He'll start out as a DH, then work to the role of catcher from that point. We haven't worked out the specifics [of where the rehab would take place]."

Barfield's rehab is also looming. Soloff said Barfield tolerated his first round of BP "exceptionally well."

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

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