Hafner could return during current homestand

CLEVELAND -- The clock is ticking on the Indians' season, and possibly on Travis Hafner's future with the organization. That is not stopping Cleveland from trying to get the veteran designated hitter back in the lineup.

On Tuesday, Indians manager Manny Acta indicated that the ballclub is optimistic about having Hafner back in the mix at some point on the current homestand, which runs through Thursday. The DH has been sidelined with a back injury since Aug. 5.

"I can't give you an exact day," Acta said. "But I'm hopeful to get him back this homestand."

With inclement weather forcing Cleveland's pregame work indoors on Tuesday, Hafner continued his hitting program in the batting cage. If the 35-year-old Hafner does return as expected, Acta said first baseman Casey Kotchman would likely lose at-bats, with Russ Canzler getting more time at first as opposed to DH.

In 60 games this season, Hafner has hit .239 with 11 home runs and 32 RBIs, missing all of June with a right knee injury. The DH has hit just .208 over his past 48 games, dating back to April.

This winter, the Indians will need to decide between a $13 million club option for 2013 or a $2.75 million buyout of Hafner's contract. Cleveland is expected to take the less expensive option.

Under the circumstances, which include Cleveland eliminated from the postseason chase and trying to avoid a last-place finish in the American League Central, Acta was asked what benefit there is to having Hafner, 35, return for the final two weeks of the season.

"If you're fine, you should play, regardless of who you are," Acta said. "The season is not over and we're obviously a better bacllclub when he's in our lineup and producing."