CLEVELAND -- Travis Hafner's shoulder strength was at 75 percent when he returned to baseball activity in August. It was at 70 percent when his end-of-season physical examination was performed. Clearly, this is not progress.
With that information in hand, the Indians had Hafner make a second visit to Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., on Monday, and the decision was made to have Hafner undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder. Andrews will perform the surgery, which has some exploratory undertones, on Tuesday. "The time is now to do something," head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff said, "and have Travis as close to 100 percent [and] as unrestricted as possible by the start of next year." According to Soloff, neither MRIs nor clinical examinations of Hafner's shoulder this year have revealed a need for reconstruction or repair. But Soloff said it is not out of the realm of possibility that the surgery will unveil such a need. For now, then, the details of what the surgery will accomplish are rather murky. Soloff was expecting another update on Tuesday. "We identified some chronic changes in Travis' shoulder that are not dissimilar from an athlete's shoulder, a thrower's shoulder," he said. "The process is to arthroscopically clean out any chronic changes and investigate any other anatomical reasons for pain." Hafner had a season that was pretty much painful to watch. The shoulder began bothering him in Spring Training and truly hampered him in late May. He went on the disabled list on May 30 and didn't return to the club until Sept. 9, after a rehab assignment in the Minors. In all, Pronk played in just 57 games, batting .197 with five homers and 24 RBIs. His average, on-base percentage (.305) and slugging percentage (.323) were all career lows. Though Hafner did not report pain in his shoulder in September, Soloff said that it still affected his performance. "He was not able to play three days in a row, four days in a row," Soloff said. "When he did play back-to-back days, he often needed a day of recovery to play the following day." The Indians are holding out hope that Hafner will be able to report to Spring Training at 100 percent strength, following rehabilitation from the surgery. But because the details of the surgery are not yet known, a complete timetable for his recovery really can't be speculated upon. The Indians' medical staff and Andrews both declared that Hafner's shoulder did not require surgery this summer. The thinking was that he could get to full strength through a strength and conditioning program. "The thought here is that he, in essence, failed conservative management," Soloff said. "We gave him a six-to-eight-week window of conservative management. He resumed baseball activities for four to six weeks, and his shoulder still maintains symptoms. The strength regressed, so in our minds, the best way to have Travis unrestricted in terms of baseball activities is to proceed through a diagnostic arthroscopy." Soloff was asked why the Indians didn't have the surgery performed sooner, to increase the chances of Hafner being back to form by Spring Training. "We don't approach any type of surgical intervention in a cavalier way," he said. "At that time we sought several opinions, and no one thought surgery was indicated at that time." The Indians have a lot of time and money invested into the 31-year-old Hafner. He is due to make another $49 million over the next four seasons, with a $13 million option or a $2.75 million buyout for 2013. He will make $11.5 million next season, and the Indians, at this time, do not have plans to seek another option for designated hitter in the free-agent or trade markets.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.