Pronk's timely return to Tribe in doubt

Pronk's timely return to Tribe in doubt

CLEVELAND -- You might have heard this once or twice before, but Travis Hafner's shoulder is bothering him.

Two days before he was expected to return to the Indians' lineup, the outlook for Hafner, who is at Triple-A Columbus on a rehab assignment, is very much up in the air. Originally slated to play for the Clippers Thursday, Friday and Saturday before coming back to Cleveland on Sunday, Hafner was held out of Columbus' lineup Saturday with an eye on playing for them Sunday.

The clock is ticking on Hafner's rehab. He is eligible to play for Columbus through Wednesday. Then it's time for the Indians to either bring him back for treatment or bring him back to put him in the lineup. Of course, if Hafner returns to Cleveland for treatment, he could then be sent out on another rehab assignment.

Manager Eric Wedge was asked if he's frustrated over the Hafner situation.

"That would be a good word for it," Wedge said with a laugh.

The Indians had expected to bring Pronk back on Monday and make a decision on Grady Sizemore's status. Sizemore, battling left elbow inflammation, has played just two games in center field since May 17. He's become the Tribe's regular DH, but that spot obviously wouldn't be available if Hafner is back in the lineup.

Sizemore continues to stay away from throwing activities, but that could change in the coming days.

"He definitely feels better staying away from the baseball," Wedge said. "We'll keep playing it day to day. We want to make sure we work through the process."

As for the process of getting Hafner back to being an everyday player, that's been a slow and painful one.

It was exactly one year ago that Hafner first went on the disabled list with right shoulder weakness. When conservative management and rehabilitation didn't work, Hafner had arthroscopic surgery at the end of the 2008 season. He began hitting activities in January and opened the '09 season as the Indians' cleanup hitter. Though limited to about four or five playing days a week, Hafner was initially effective at the plate. But the shoulder began bothering him again in late April, and he was placed on the 15-day disabled list April 29.

Hafner began his rehab assignment with Columbus on May 15. He has hit .429 (12-for-28) with a homer, three doubles and six RBIs. The rehab was briefly interrupted earlier this week when Hafner experienced tightness in his mid-back.

As for the shoulder soreness, doctors told Pronk to expect such problems for the first year after the surgery. But the fact that the shoulder is bothering him in the midst of a rehab assignment is hardly encouraging for a Tribe team that is paying Hafner $11.5 million this season and owes him at least another $40.25 million from 2010-12.

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