It's gonna be a long walk home

So, if you’re Travis Hafner and the Indians, are you relieved that no structural damage has been found in Pronk’s shoulder and the surgical procedure performed was a relatively tame arthroscopy, or are you just all that much more perplexed?

This injury has been about as mysterious as they come. I don’t fault the Indians for delaying surgery as long as possible. Given that the MRIs on the shoulder turned up no need for structural repair, it seemed reasonable to have Hafner try to build up his strength through rehab. But when that strategy failed, it was back to the drawing board — or, more accurately, off to the surgeon’s table.

Now that the “cleanout” surgery has been performed, the Indians are operating under the assumption that Hafner will be at 100 percent strength by the start of next season.

But here’s an assumption the Indians must be considering: Even at 100 percent strength, there is a very good chance the Pronk of 2009 won’t be the Pronk of 2006 or even ’07. His bat speed had slowed long before he ever told the Indians his shoulder was bothering him, and the time lost due to injury won’t help matters one bit.

The Indians are really handcuffed here. Hafner’s contract hinders them from seeking out backup DH options on the open market, so any “Plan B” would have to come in-house.

I had once been in favor of exploring Kelly Shoppach’s trade value this winter, but the ever-evolving Hafner saga leads me to believe the Indians will have little choice but to stay flexible with that whole Shoppach/Martinez/Garko mish-mosh at catcher and first base. If Hafner is still ailing or remains a shell of his former self at the plate, the Indians could give Martinez more time at first and Garko more time at DH — at least until Matt LaPorta is ready to contribute.

Only one truly positive scenario exists out of this mess, and that’s Hafner returning at full strength and contributing at the plate — perhaps not at the level he did in ’06, but I’m sure the Indians would sign up for 100 RBIs and an OPS above, say, .850. That scenario, unfortunately, has looked less and less believable as this year has evolved. And it’s hard to be convinced that an athroscopic procedure is going to cure all that ails the man known as Pronk.

7 Comments

As I’m not a physician, I can only guess, but I think that it is a pretty good bet that the clean-out of Hafner’s shoulder will result in his ability to come back up to 100% strength. It’s also possible that the shoulder has been bothering him much longer than the Indians knew about it, and even that it was effecting Haf’s strength and bat speed before he realized the problem himself. So I have hope, but I am also wary. Let’s keep our fingers crossed, eh?

Maybe he sleeps on it funny, I slept on my side funny and my shoulder feels weak this morning, I definitely wouldn’t be able to hit for power today.

Hoping for the best.

On a side note, AC, I really enjoyed this read. Thanks for keeping us up to speed.

Myranda

The “Shoppach, Martinez, Garko shuffle” is the way to go, and the Tribe could really do a lot worse. If I were Shapiro I would go in with this lineup and if Pronk, Laporta, Brown, or Aubrey steps up then that’s a bonus. The only problem is Pronk’s huge contract, the Tribe can’t afford to have money like that laying around, and as we all know an injured, nonperforming Pronk has no trade value, so I guess we are stuck just hoping.

The only thing with keeping Kelly, which is not a bad idea, but he will be one of the first ones brought up in trades. Would they trade him for someone like (EX: Brian Roberts)? Then what will they do then? But there is always the option of going for someone like Orlando Hudson on the FA Market. That way they still have Kelly, Garko, Victor and Aubrey. If they do that will they be able to afford the Closer that they say they want to get? I don’t want to rely on Laporta, Brantley or even Crowe in there first years. IF They do get Robert by trading Kelly then Martinez would have to move back to Catcher (Full Time) and Aubery and Garko would flip flop back and forth between First and DH. Garko showed he can drive in RBI’s, but he needs to hit for a little more power. He became a singles hitter last year. Then what do you with Hafner? You can’t let all that money sit the bench and take up space on the roster, he has to get AB’s which could be good, but it could be bad. (hopefully good)

Hafner was the only one in the lineup who seemed to truly produce fear in opposing pitchers, but if necessary the team has to move on. Big position player problem is 3rd, and moving Peralta from short does not seem promising; in fact, giving him something new in the field to think about is likely to affect his hitting. I’d want to see who’s available who’s better than Casey Blake, although at 36 he’d be likely to show a slowdown. All those blown saves were a primary reason for the team failure, but literally everyone will be looking for a closer, particularly such bigger budget teams as Detroit, NY Mets and of course, the LA Angels trying to hold onto KRod. I just don’t think the job can get done with Rincon, Donnelly, Mullica — all too inconsistent. And Sowers raises the same issue as a starter. I doubt he’ll ever be the full-season consistent guy that’s needed. The rotation needs a big year from Fausto, a decent year from Cliff Lee (15-17 wins), and the rest from Reyes, Jackson (? or am I being too optimistic), a return (and to form) for Jake before midyear. Like everyone I need to develop faith in Jensen Lewis that I don’t have now. The offseason is a time for optimism, and hey, who would have thought the Twins would be in the race after the losses of Santana and Silva, minimal performance from Liriano, loss of Torii Hunter and nothing to date from the guys they got for Santana.

Some good breakdowns on next years stuff and I like what was said about Hafner producing fear in the opposition. Now, that was completely true, however, Grady has been able to start doing the same thing as evidence by Ozzie Guillen always electing to bring in a specialist just for him or work around him and if Choo carries over the clutch hitting he had last year for just a few months he’ll grow into that reputation. The thing I’ve seen with Choo that I like that reminds me of Hafner in 05-06, is that when pitched to he took advantage and when pitched around he didn’t let it affect him. But I noticed that when 07 cranked up and Pronk started hot it seemed like all that working around him got in his brain. I’d like to think this shoulder thing will have been the problem and its cleared, but I truly think it was mental. Not saying I’m any better, I couldn’t tell ya what pitch they’d throw me if they told me, I just think he needs to regain the focus he had then, not necessarily anything physical.

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