CLEVELAND -- Designated hitter Travis Hafner sat at his locker inside the Indians' clubhouse on Sunday morning, preparing for another day spent as a spectator.
Hafner -- sidelined with a right oblique injury since May 18 -- continues to progress through a gradual hitting program, with the hope of returning to the lineup within the next two weeks. Prior to Sunday's game against the Rangers, Hafner was restricted to receiving treatment.
"No hitting today," Hafner said.
Hafner, 33, began swinging a bat on Thursday and he progressed to soft toss drills and tee work on Friday and Saturday. Hafner, who said he has been feeling improved, noted that he would resume the same activities on Monday.
"The first days it was bad," Hafner said. "But it's been feeling a lot better since then."
Hafner injured his oblique on a swing during batting practice on May 18 in Chicago. At the time of his injury, the veteran DH was hitting .345 with five home runs, eight doubles and 22 RBIs in 32 games for the Tribe.
In the 17 games since Hafner was shelved, Cleveland has gone 7-10 with a .231 team batting average, a .290 team on-base percentage and an average of 3.6 runs per game. In the team's first 39 games, the Indians' offense hit .271 with a .342 OBP and 5.3 runs per game.
Choo trying to clear head, focus on baseball
CLEVELAND -- Shin-Soo Choo admitted on Sunday morning that he has been getting in his own way this season. The Indians right fielder feels he has been letting too many outside issues affect his performance on the field.
From the pressures of hitting third for the first-place Tribe, to the embarrassment that came with his early-May arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol, Choo is quick to say that he has been thinking too much and trying too hard.
The result has been a slump that has dragged into June.
"There's been a lot of stress this year," Choo said on Sunday. "My wife has told me not to worry about it. I mean, I know. But it's hard to do it."
Choo, who was pulled from the third spot and moved to sixth for Sunday's game against the Rangers, said he had a long talk with Indians manager Manny Acta on Saturday, when the right fielder was given a mental break from playing. Acta told Choo to focus on his family instead of worrying about anything else.
Worrying about what other people think, and stressing over what has been written or said in the media, has been a problem for Choo throughout this season.
"I need to close my ears, close my eyes," Choo said. "It's not easy, though."
Choo added that he is currently trying to embrace the mindset he had in 2000, when he left Korea to pursue his dreams of playing in the big leagues. The right fielder pointed to his Indians jersey, hanging in his locker, and then at the lineup card hanging on a nearby door.
For Choo, those two things are what matter the most right now.
"Eleven years ago, I was 18," Choo said. "After high school, I came to the United States. What was my goal? I wanted to play in the big leagues. The big leagues is the best baseball in the world. My name, everyday, is on the lineup card. If it's the nine-hole or eight-hole, it doesn't matter. Every day, my name is on the lineup card.
"I have bigger goals right now. But for the first time, I've backed up my mind to 11 years ago. I'm trying too much right now, so I'm trying to go back to 11 years ago, where I came from in Korea, wanting to make the Major Leagues.
"I'm playing in the Major Leagues. I'm still playing in the best league on the best team in baseball. I'm trying to slow down my mind a little bit."
Choo, who entered Sunday hitting .242 with five home runs and 22 RBIs in 54 games for Cleveland, acknowledged that his DUI arrest in the early-morning hours of May 2 has weighed on his mind. Not only did he feel that he let down his team and Indians' fans, but he also feels he disappointed his many fans back home in Korea.
"My first country is Korea, but I've lived here for 11 years," Choo said. "I have two different countries. I worry about more fans. ... [After I was arrested], I wanted to play good in the field. I show better play and then try to make people forget about that happening."
Choo hopes changing his thinking will be the key for turning things around.
"I know what the problem is right now," he said. "I'm thinking too much. I'm trying too hard. That's just my natural thought. I talked about it in Spring Training. Sometimes it helps and sometimes it makes it worse. It's given me a lot of stress."
Back tightness hindering Pestano
CLEVELAND -- Indians fans will have to excuse reliever Vinnie Pestano if he does away with his signature sprint from the bullpen for a few appearances.
On Sunday, Pestano was still experiencing tightness in his lower back -- an injury that forced him to leave Saturday's 4-0 loss to Texas before even throwing a pitch. The issue flared up during running drills earlier this week, and worsened when Pestano attempted to pitch against the Rangers.
"It's still pretty stiff," Pestano said on Sunday morning. "I'm hoping that I'll be able to get this thing loosened up and see what happens. I'm not looking for it to be a long-term thing. Hopefully I'll be back in there as soon as possible."
For now, Pestano is considered day to day.
Pestano, 26, felt tightness while warming up in the bullpen and again during a handful of warmup pitches prior to the ninth inning on Saturday. Rather than risk having the pitcher play through the discomfort, manager Manny Acta pulled him from the game.
"I ran out there and I was going to try," Pestano said. "I mean, I wanted to throw, but Manny came out and decided it wasn't a good idea."
Losing Pestano for any period of time would be a big blow to the bullpen.
In 24 appearances this season for Cleveland, Pestano has gone 1-0 with a tidy 1.29 ERA. Over the span of 21 innings -- mostly serving as the Tribe's primary right-handed setup man -- Pestano has piled up 27 strikeouts and eight walks while limiting opponents to a .153 batting average.
Quote to note
"I see my numbers. In the third spot, most of the time you see better on-base [percentage] and a lot of RBIs. In sixth or seventh, you'll see it, too, but third is the best hitter on the team. I'm not right now. You guys see it. [Asdrubal] Cabrera is hitting really, really good." --Indians right fielder Shin-Soo Choo, who was replaced by Cabrera in the lineup's third hole on Sunday
Despite their recent struggles, the Indians still entered Sunday's game with the best record in baseball (33-23) and the best home record in the American League (19-9). Cleveland had gone 13-15 dating back to May 3, when the Tribe boasted a 20-8 record.
The Indians carried a three-game losing streak into Sunday's game against the Rangers. It tied the longest skid of the season for the Tribe, which has lost three in a row three times this year. Entering Sunday, only Cleveland, Texas, Atlanta, Florida and St. Louis had not endured a losing streak of more than three games this year.
The Midwest League announced its midseason All-Star teams on Saturday. Six players made the cut from Cleveland's Class A affiliate in Lake County. Outfielder Anthony Gallas, catcher Alex Monsalve, infielder Argenis Martinez and pitchers Clayton Ehlert, Mike Goodnight and Mike Rayl all made the Eastern Division's All-Star team for the Captains.