The club placed designated hitter Travis Hafner on the 15-day disabled list with a strained side muscle on Friday, another blow to the AL Central leaders, who put center fielder Grady Sizemore on the DL earlier in the week with a bruised knee.
”It’s a big blow,” manager Manny Acta said.
Acta said an MRI taken on Hafner showed ”issues” with his right oblique muscle. Hafner will be out a minimum of 3 to 4 weeks.
”We’re always optimistic,” Acta said.
Hafner was injured taking a swing during batting practice on Wednesday in Chicago. He was pulled from the starting lineup and sat out two games. He underwent medical tests in Cleveland before the Indians made the roster move with their most proven power hitter – and the league’s third-best for average.
”It’s a 6-foot-3, 240-pound blow,” Acta said. ”Obviously, he’s a big part of our lineup and he’s been swinging the bat so good from Day One. But you know what? We have to deal with it. Every team is dealing with some type of injury and it’s an opportunity for somebody to step up.
”What makes it easier for us is that we have a little cushion. We have played well enough for the last month and a half, that it’s easier for us to take that blow.”
Hafner’s batting .345 with five homers and 22 RBIs, and his comeback after several injury-slowed seasons has been one of the keys to the Indians’ surprising start. Hafner, who is making his sixth career trip to the DL, is eligible to come off the DL on June 2. However, he’ll likely remain sidelined beyond that date.
Acta said filling out his lineup card without Hafner and Sizemore is challenging.
”It’s kind of tough to substitute those two guys the way they were swinging the bat,” he said. ”We always mention how much one guy changes the whole lineup. Our lineup was so balanced that we were able to have Michael Brantley hit seventh.”
The Indians (26-15) have been baseball’s biggest surprise through 1 1/2 months.
They enter this weekend’s interleague series against Cincinnati with the AL’s best record, and their depth will be tested during a difficult stretch of their schedule minus Sizemore and Hafner. After facing the Reds for three, the Indians will host resurgent Boston before playing three in Tampa Bay and Toronto.
Once again, injuries are mounting for Acta. His first season was sabotaged when Sizemore, Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana were all lost for extensive time.
”It’s tough, but I think we’re better equipped this year,” Acta said. ”Last year, we had to reach down and bring up players we were not expecting to be up here until September. We should be better and what’s good about it is that we have a little cushion.
”We’ve played so well at the beginning that it helps. It would be a lot harder if we would have been playing way under .500 baseball and then our two weapons go down.”
Acta said he’ll rotate Shelley Duncan and Travis Buck in at DH, and he can also use Matt LaPorta there on days that catcher Carlos Santana plays first.
To take Hafner’s roster spot, the Indians recalled outfielder Ezequiel Carrera from Triple-A Columbus. The team also recalled reliever Frank Herrmann from the Clippers and optioned infielder Luis Valbuena, who was up with the major league club for just one day.
Carrera, 23, was batting .317 with 17 RBIs and 15 steals at Columbus. He made a big impression on the Indians during spring training and Acta is eager to see him play.
”Hey,” Acta said, ”sometimes these guys come up to the big leagues, they are unknown and they can make a big impact and win a couple games for you.”