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Indians to be careful with heart of order

Indians to be careful with heart of order

BALTIMORE -- The Indians' have their middle-of-the-order hitters back.

Well, sort of.

Neither Travis Hafner nor Victor Martinez are ready to play every day. The Indians are still going to be careful with Pronk and his right shoulder and Martinez and his right elbow.

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As expected, Hafner was activated from the 60-day disabled list Tuesday and was immediately placed in the Indians' lineup at designated hitter. He batted fifth.

Martinez, meanwhile, was once again out of the lineup. He made back-to-back starts Sunday and Monday for the first time since his Aug. 29 activation but is not yet ready to play three in a row.

"Maybe one of these days I'll get crazy and have [Grady] Sizemore, Martinez and Hafner in there at the same time," manager Eric Wedge joked, referring to the three most prominent members of his lineup.

Wedge didn't mention Jhonny Peralta in that group, but Peralta has nonetheless earned himself a prominent position in the lineup with his play while Martinez and Hafner were gone. Peralta has hit .316 with 24 doubles, 10 homers and 48 RBIs in 67 games since taking over the cleanup spot on June 22.

Now that Hafner and Martinez are back, don't expect Peralta to get bumped out of that spot anytime soon.

"He's done a real good job in the cleanup spot," Wedge said. "The job he's done there warrants attention."

If Martinez and Hafner can return to their career norms -- and Martinez is off to a nice start, having driven in six runs in eight games since his activation -- Wedge would have some strong options for the middle of his order. His options are aided by Shin-Soo Choo's emergence and recent ascension to the No. 3 spot.

Peralta is a right-hander, Hafner and Choo are left-handers and Martinez is a switch-hitter, so that mix helps with matchups.

But given that Martinez and Hafner are not yet options to play every day and Pronk remains a major question mark after his disappointing 2007 and April and May of '08, Wedge can't get too far ahead of himself.

"It's more of a conversation for next year," he said.

And just because the Tribe's options for the middle of the order are supposedly stronger with a healthy Martinez and Hafner in the mix doesn't preclude the club from searching for a bat this winter. The Indians could be in the market for a corner infielder with middle-of-the-order pop.

"[General manager] Mark [Shapiro] and I have had a lot of discussion about that," Wedge said. "We'll see what's out there and what makes sense. If he can find a bat that's going to make us better, then I'm all for it."

For now, Wedge is just happy to have Hafner and Martinez back -- even if they can't help him out every day.

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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