Travis Hafner has heard the rumors, but he’s not about to confirm them. The Indians’ designated hitter was asked Saturday about a notion floating around Cleveland that a local company will soon be marketing Pronk jerky to go along with the Pronk Bar chocolate already available in the area.
Travis Hafner has heard the rumors, but he’s not about to confirm them.
The Indians’ designated hitter was asked Saturday about a notion floating around Cleveland that a local company will soon be marketing Pronk jerky to go along with the Pronk Bar chocolate already available in the area.
“I don’t know anything about it,” Hafner said with a smile.
What Hafner would confirm is the rumor that, after a difficult summer, he is finally hitting like the Pronk of old.
“Overall, I feel like I’ve swung the bat pretty well in September,” Hafner said. “I’m just trying to develop some consistency.”
The 30-year-old North Dakotan was hitting .522 (12-for-23) in his last seven games through Friday. He was batting .358 (19-for-53) with 11 RBIs in his last 15 games and .304 (28-for-92) with 21 RBIs in September.
“The biggest difference is in his approach,” Cleveland hitting coach Derek Shelton said. “He gets ready to hit earlier, and he’s in a better position to hit.”
“I’ve been trying to use the whole field more,” Hafner said. “I’ve put a lot of ground balls to the pull side this year. I feel like I’m doing a better job of using the middle and opposite fields better lately.”
The No. 3 hitter in Cleveland’s order batted .253 or worse in all of May, June, July and August. But, somehow, he came into Saturday needing two RBIs to reach 100 for the fourth consecutive season.
“When a guy has struggled through parts of the year and still has 98 RBIs, that’s still a pretty good season,” Shelton said.
Hafner’s work habits have remained consistent, even during the tough times.
“He works hard to be the great hitter that he is,” Manager Eric Wedge said. “We’ve definitely seen it translate into the games. It couldn’t happen at a better time for us, and for him.
“Travis Hafner is going up there, swinging the bat like he’s capable of. He’s impacting the baseball and impacting the game for us.”
The regular season concludes today at 2:10 p.m. RHP Luke Hochevar (0-0, 0.93) will start against LHP Aaron Laffey (3-2, 4.87).
The new guy
Right-hander Luke Hochevar will make his first major-league start today for Kansas City. The first overall pick in the 2006 draft has made three relief appearances in September, allowing one run over 9 2/3 innings.
The Indians will take a day off Monday, then work out Tuesday at Jacobs Field. New York RHP Chien-Ming Wang (19-7, 3.70) will likely start Game 1 of the Division Series against Cleveland LHP C.C. Sabathia (19-7, 3.21) either Wednesday or Thursday. The Game 2 matchup should be LHP Andy Pettitte (14-9, 3.81) vs. RHP Fausto Carmona (19-8, 3.06).
Go for three
Kenny Lofton belted triples Thursday and Friday after having one triple in his first 48 games with the Indians. “My legs were never gone,” Lofton said. “I just haven’t hit the ball to the warning track for a while.”
Reach Repository sports writer Andy Call at (330) 580-8346 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org