Indians 12, Athletics 4

BY foxsports • March 21, 2010

After an extended outage, Travis Hafner may be getting his power back.

Hafner's three-run homer onto a sidewalk beyond the right-field wall capped Cleveland's eight-run second inning off Jason Jennings and sent the Indians to a 12-4 win over a split squad of Oakland Athletics on Saturday.

Hafner homered for the second time in three days, launching the type of deep shot the Indians hope to see from him during the regular season. Coming off shoulder surgery, Cleveland's designated hitter hit just 16 homers last season - 26 fewer than his career high in 2006.

``We all felt that it was a matter of him being healthy and this was going to happen,'' Indians manager Manny Acta said.

While the Indians savored another positive on Hafner, the team announced some troubling news about closer Kerry Wood.

The 32-year-old, who has had a history of medical issues, will miss at least six weeks with a strained upper back muscle. Wood, who made it through last season - his first with Cleveland - without an injury, will be making his 13th career trip to the disabled list.

Set-up man Chris Perez, acquired last season in a trade from St. Louis, will take over closing duties until Wood returns.

``It's unfortunate,'' Acta said. ``No team is better without Kerry Wood. We have a lot of confidence in Chris Perez. This is what he has done his whole life. He did it with the Cardinals a little bit. He's headed in that (closer) direction anyway, but this is a challenge because the rest of the guys are going to have to move up and they are going to have to step up.

``For us, it's going to have to be more mixing and matching to get the ball to Perez.''

Jennings, signed earlier this month by the A's and in the mix to be their fifth starter, was tagged for eight runs and seven hits in 1 2-3 innings.

Cleveland's Mitch Talbot improved his chances of making the rotation with 3 1-3 scoreless innings. The right-hander has allowed just one run in 11 1-3 innings this spring.

Kevin Kouzmanoff hit a two-run homer and Matt Carson added a solo shot for Oakland.

Hafner opened Cleveland's second with a walk and ended up scoring on Brian Buscher's one-out single, the first of three straight run-scoring hits off Jennings. Later in the inning, Hafner followed a double by Mark Grudzielanek and walk to Shin Soo-Choo by pulling his second homer of exhibition play to right, making it 8-0.

On Thursday, Hafner connected for his first homer - a towering shot to deep center. Hafner rarely pulled the ball last season, when he was unable to play more than three consecutive games while continuing to recover from surgery.

Hafner was able to get into more of a routine this winter, and he has been encouraged by how his shoulder feels and how his swing looks. Once one of the AL's most feared hitters, Hafner wants to scare pitchers again.

``Hopefully,'' he said earlier this week, ``I can get back to where I was.''

NOTES: The Indians optioned INFs Wes Hodges and Jason Donald to Triple-A Columbus. Hodges batted .417 (10 for 24) with a homer, club-leading four doubles and seven RBIs in 11 games. The 25-year-old was one of several young players to impress Acta, who knew little about them when camp opened. The Indians also assigned 3B Lonnie Chisenhall, another highly touted prospect, to their minor league camp. ... Indians OF Michael Brantley made a nice diving catch in the second to rob Adrian Cardenas. ... The A's came in with a team ERA of 6.59 - highest in the Cactus League.

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