Notes: Hafner puts off contract talks
Designated hitter will wait until offseason to negotiate with club
CLEVELAND -- With his eligibility for free agency still two seasons away, designated hitter Travis Hafner prefers to avoid the in-season distraction of contract talks.And though Hafner and the Indians had quite a few discussions about a contract extension, the two sides have decided to cut off further talks until after the season. "We have a chance to have a real good ballclub," Hafner said. "The focus needs to be on the team. Both sides didn't want [the talks] to run into the season." General manager Mark Shapiro, who locked up right-hander Jake Westbrook with a three-year contract extension on Friday, said the talks with Hafner were productive enough to be hopeful that a deal might be reached down the road. But as was the case with ace left-hander C.C. Sabathia, with whom the Indians shut down contract conversations during Spring Training, the Tribe and the player are having a tough time finding an agreeable contract length and value at this stage. "It's extremely difficult to find that common value, two years away from free agency," Shapiro said. "Obviously, we had a lot of constructive conversations and made a lot of headway. My hope would be that the work we did now would serve as the foundation for a deal in the future." A year ago, the Indians had talks with left-hander Cliff Lee that were considered constructive, as well. The two sides revisited the contract issue during the All-Star break and wrapped up a deal in August. Shapiro said a similar scenario could evolve with Hafner, though it's expected talks won't resume until the winter. "The intent is not to talk during the season," Shapiro said. "We don't have a black-and-white rule on that. It is gray. But I firmly do not expect us to resume talks until the offseason." Said Hafner: "I've still got two years here. There's plenty of time to revisit it." A scheduling mess: The Indians have yet to reschedule their snowed-out home games against the Mariners. Shapiro said that issue is in the league's hands. "We've discussed it internally," Shapiro said. "But Major League Baseball is going to have to guide that process. There are a lot of contingencies and challenges to deal with." Basically, no good scenario exists when it comes to squeezing four postponed games into an already jam-packed schedule. It had been hinted that the Indians might have to end up playing at least one of the games in Seattle, when they make a trip there in the last week of the season. Shapiro, obviously, is no fan of that proposition. "It is not our intent to play home games somewhere else," he said firmly. Nice gestures: With a first-pitch temperature of 39 degrees and heavy winds whipping through downtown Cleveland, the Indians closed the upper deck for Sunday's game because of fan comfort concerns. Attendance for Sunday's game was paltry, at best. But those who braved the conditions were to be handed vouchers upon their exit, offering them free tickets to another April or May home date. The Indians also took out a full-page ad in Sunday's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal, thanking the city and its residents for their support during the unique series at Miller Park last week. Another ad was to be taken out in Monday's Cleveland Plain Dealer, thanking the local fans for their patience and understanding during what has been a dramatic homestand. Still fuming: Paul Byrd might have finally gotten his first official start of the 2007 season out of the way, but he's still upset about the way the aborted home opener against the Mariners was handled. Byrd would like to forget that game and that disappointment, but the memories keep following him around. "I even talked to [umpire] Larry Poncino about it after the third inning [of Saturday's game]," Byrd said. "He was saying, 'Why'd you walk those guys in the fifth?' So I found myself in the middle of this game talking about the last game. It hasn't left me. It's just something that's in the back of my mind. I'm looking forward to facing the Mariners again, that's for sure." After the April 6 fiasco, Byrd said he was upset with Seattle manager Mike Hargrove for pleading with the umpires to delay the game with two outs and a 1-2 count on Jose Lopez. Coming along: Cliff Politte, rehabbing after August surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff, is with the Indians in Cleveland and progressing nicely, in his estimation. "I feel a night and day difference from the spring," he said. "I feel real good." Politte, who might be counted on to help the bullpen later this season, is playing long toss from 105 feet every day before he begins work on flat ground in another week. He should be throwing off a mound in the next three weeks, if all goes to plan, and his target return to game action is still the month of June. Here's the question: During the 1997 season, catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. notched a hit in every game he played one month. Which month was it? Tribe tidbits: Left-hander Cliff Lee (strained right abdominal muscle) saw his scheduled rehab outing at Class A Kinston rained out Sunday. He will head down to Winter Haven, Fla., to pitch three innings or 50 pitches against the Tribe's extended Spring Training squad on Monday. ... Catcher Victor Martinez remained out of the lineup Sunday. The Indians had considered giving Martinez, who has been out since last Friday with a strained left quadriceps muscle, the start at designated hitter but opted against it, perhaps because of the cold weather. Before the game, Martinez said his leg felt fine. ... Utility infielder Mike Rouse got his first start of the season Sunday, filling in for Josh Barfield at second base. Rouse had appeared briefly in just one of the Tribe's previous eight games. ... The Indians will have two upcoming games on WMMS 100.7 FM, due to a conflict with the Cavaliers games that will be airing on flagship station WTAM 1100. Tuesday's and Wednesday's games from New York will be moved to the FM dial. And the answer is: Alomar notched a hit in every game he played in the month of June. On deck: The Indians will have a day off Monday, and it has nothing to do with snow, rain or natural disaster. This one was written into the schedule. They'll return to action Tuesday in New York in the opener of a three-game series, where newly extended Jake Westbrook will get the 7:05 p.m. ET start. The Yankees will counter with rookie left-hander Chase Wright.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.