Columbus designated hitter Travis Hafner bats against the Mud Hens in Monday night's game at Fifth Third Field. Hafner was 0-for-4, but he feels he could be close to returning to Cleveland after rehabbing his knee with the Clippers.
Travis Hafner has batted against "The Shift" before.
But it still has to be frustrating when opponents move three infielders between first and second base against the left-handed hitting Hafner, daring him to try and hit the ball to the opposite field rather than hit the ball hard into the teeth of the defense.
Hafner went 0-for-4 against the Mud Hens' shift Monday and wasn't a factor in a 4-1 Columbus win over Toledo. But collecting hits for the Clippers isn't as important as getting ready for a return to Cleveland to help the Indians.
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"I'm doing pretty good," said Hafner, who is rehabbing from arthroscopic knee surgery on May 31. "Overall things are going pretty well. The knee is feeling pretty good, so hopefully I'll be back pretty soon."
Hafner said his rehab assignment with the Clippers is serving several purposes.
"It's about building up to being in game shape," he said. "A lot of it is getting my timing at the plate.
"I played Wednesday, Saturday, and Monday, so it would be nice to get a bunch of at-bats closer together in back-to-back games."
Neither Hafner nor Columbus manager Mike Sarbaugh knew if the Indians' DH would be in Toledo today or rejoin the Indians.
On Monday, Hafner was hit by a Jacob Turner pitch in the first inning, then was retired three times on plays that would have been outs against a normal defensive alignment. But in his last at-bat, he hit a rope to right field that would have been a hit against a traditional defense, but instead was caught by Hens second baseman Cale Iorg in shallow right.
"I think he's getting his timing back," Sarbaugh said. "In his last at-bat, I thought he swung the bat well.
"It's going to take a little bit of time, but he's a pro who has been through this before and knows how to handle it."
Hafner, who has one hit in 10 at-bats for the Clippers, said he wasn't worried about losing a hit to the Hens' shift.
"When you're hitting, you don't really think about the shift," he said. "You just focus on seeing the ball and hitting.
"You can pull a lot of balls hard into the shift, and that can be frustrating. Sometimes I think managers just use the shift to make you change your approach.
"I just try to stay consistent as possible."
While the Mud Hens were able to neutralize Hafner, they weren't able to avoid their seventh consecutive loss at Fifth Third Field.
Turner held the Clippers to a single run until struggling in the sixth. He gave up a leadoff double to Matt LaPorta, then three consecutive singles that produced a pair of runs. Turner then got two outs before giving up an RBI single to Ezequiel Carrera on a 1-2 pitch.
"I thought he had good command," Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin said. "They didn't hit many balls hard off him in the sixth: LaPorta's double landed on the line, there were others just out of guys' reach.
"I may have left him in one batter too long -- I could have gone lefty-lefty with [Matt] Hoffman and Carrera. But Turner had handled Carrera pretty well, so I may have left him in one batter too long."
The problem for the Hens continued to be the offense, which manufactured just four hits and a single run. That lone tally came in the second when Matt Young lined a two-out single to center to score Argenis Diaz.
"Four hits and one run aren't going to win many games," Nevin said. "We had an opportunity in the first when we got the first two runners on base, but we didn't get the runners around.
"I don't think we got a runner to third base except for the runner who scored, and you just can't win that way."
NOTES: The Mud Hens released IF Jeff Baisley during their just-completed road trip. Baisley hit .081 with just three RBIs in 10 games for Toledo. The Hens called up 3B Bryan Pounds from Double-A Erie to replace Baisley. Pounds batted .208 with four homers and 13 RBIs in 54 games for the SeaWolves. … With Sunday's rainout in Columbus, the Mud Hens pushed all of their starters back one day. RHP Thad Weber will start for Toledo in today's 7 p.m. game against the Columbus. … Sunday's rainout in Columbus will be made up in a doubleheader there on July 25 starting at 5:35 p.m.
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.
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