NEW YORK -- Travis Hafner stepped into the batter's box at Yankee Stadium early Friday afternoon and looked like his old self. The Indians designated hitter sprayed line drives around the stadium and peppered the right-field stands with a few blasts.
The session marked Hafner's first time taking regular batting practice since injuring his right oblique on May 18 in Chicago. The DH came away from three rounds feeling fine and itching to get back in the lineup for Cleveland.
"Everything was good," Hafner said. "There's no pain with it. Everything feels good. It's gotten better pretty much every day since I started hitting."
The current plan calls for Hafner to rest on Saturday before resuming regular BP sessions again on Sunday and Monday in New York. If everything goes well throughout those workouts, the Indians plan on sending the 33-year-old DH out on a Minor League rehab assignment.
Hafner did not sound like a man wanting to take some hacks down on the farm.
"We'll talk about it and see what happens," Hafner said.
Manager Manny Acta said a Minor League rehab stint will be necessary.
"I absolutely think he'll need some games," said the manager. "He's been out for too long just to throw him out there."
Through 32 games for the Indians this season, Hafner hit .345 with five home runs, eight doubles and 22 RBIs. Along the way, he fashioned a .409 on-base percentage and a .549 slugging percentage. Since Hafner went down, Cleveland has gone 8-13 with a .226 average as a team, scoring 3.2 runs per game.
Acta was encouraged by what he saw from Hafner on Friday.
"He swung the bat really good, man," Acta said. "It was very good to see. He was very effortless and right on time. He also ran the bases and looked good."
In lesser role, O-Cab eager to bounce back
NEW YORK -- During the Indians' surprising run to the top of the American League Central standings, second baseman Orlando Cabrera has provided the ballclub with a veteran presence and leadership both on the field and in the clubhouse.
Under the circumstances, Cabrera was caught off guard when Cleveland decided to pull him out of the full-time role at second base in favor of prospect Cord Phelps on Wednesday. Sitting at his locker in the visitors' clubhouse at Yankee Stadium on Friday, Cabrera admitted he was surprised by the decision.
"I don't know," Cabrera said. "Maybe I was naive to think that would never happen if the team was still in first place. I don't know. Yeah, it took me for surprise in that particular moment. We'll see. We'll see what happens, man. There's still a lot of games."
After the Tribe promoted Phelps from Triple-A Columbus, Indians manager Manny Acta said that Cabrera was "disappointed in a way" upon learning that the young infielder would garner most of the playing time at second. Cabrera said that "disappointed" was not the right word.
"He said I was disappointed?" Cabrera said. "I don't feel disappointed at all. Feeling disappointed at all would be saying, 'Yes, I agree with everything.' I just don't feel anything, bad or good."
Cabrera said the only thing he is focusing on right now is the fact that the Indians remain in first place in their division. A veteran of six postseasons in the past seven years, Cabrera said the team's position is more important that his personal statistics. That said, Cabrera's production has been down over the past month.
Through 56 games this season, the 36-year-old Cabrera has hit .246 with two home runs, eight doubles, 23 runs scored, 28 RBIs and a .586 OPS. Dating back to May 3, Cabrera has posted a .192 average (20-for-104) with a .453 OPS over 29 games. He was hitting .301 prior to that stretch.
Cabrera also entered Friday's game against the Yankees hitting only .228 on the year against right-handed pitching. With the Tribe's lineup struggling as a whole of late, Acta indicated that, for now, the switch-hitting Phelps will get the bulk of the starts at second on days when a right-hander is on the hill.
"They call it an average," Cabrera said. "You don't get your average in the first year, or the first day. You don't get your average in the middle of the season. You get your average at the end of the season. I believe that's why they call it an average. It's not something that you get and that's it. It's only 56 games. If you give me a season, we'll see.
"I don't expect myself to hit .400 the entire year. I've never done it, so how can I expect that from myself? What I expect from myself is to win almost every day and go home feeling happy that we're still in first place. After that, so many things can go wrong or can go right that you can evaluate throughout a whole year."
Cabrera was not taking the Tribe's decision to mean he can no longer be an everyday player for the team.
"No one can tell me if I can still play or not," Cabrera said. "It's just something that can happen right now, and they believe this is one of the ways they can fix it. I can't do anything about that.
"We'll see. We'll see what happens. Hopefully, we can maintain our position."
Tribe rests Buck after minor fender bender
NEW YORK -- A fender bender in downtown Manhattan cost Travis Buck a day in the starting lineup for the Indians.
On Friday morning, Buck and his wife were passengers in a taxi that was involved in a minor car accident. The Tribe outfielder reported to Yankee Stadium in the afternoon but was sent to a local hospital, where he and his wife were both examined for injuries.
"They're at the hospital getting checked out," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "They're OK. He was checked by the trainer here and he was a little dazed. [Head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff] suggested we take the safe route."
Buck was initially in the lineup as Cleveland's designated hitter. With him unavailable, Acta gave rookie infielder Cord Phelps a shot as the team's DH, batting him in the seventh spot in the order.
Acta indicated that Buck suffered "a little bit of whiplash" in the accident. Shortly before the start of Friday's game, Buck was back at the stadium and in uniform for the Indians.
Entering Friday, Buck was batting .256 with two home runs and eight RBIs in 26 games for Cleveland this season.
Quote to note
"If we score a million runs and are still in last place, or score less and win the pennant, those are different things. To me, the most important thing is to win. I don't care how."
-- Indians second baseman Orlando Cabrera
Entering Friday's game against the Yankees, the Indians were mired in a 1-for-40 slump with runners in scoring position. During the Tribe's recent 1-6 homestand, the club went 3-for-42 with RISP, dropping its season average in such scenarios from .303 to .282.
Entering Friday, the Indians had been in first place in the American League Central for 64 consecutive days, dating back to April 7. On May 21-23, Cleveland owned a seven-game lead over the division's second-place team. Going into Friday's game, the Tribe's division lead had been trimmed to just one game over the second-place Tigers.
Second baseman Orlando Cabrera entered Friday's game with 1,999 career hits. Upon collecting hit No. 2,000, Cabrera will become the 262nd player in baseball history and the 17th active player to reach the milestone.
On Friday, the Carolina League revealed its All-Star teams. Making the cut from Class A Kinston were pitchers Drew Pomeranz, Preston Guilmet and Giovanni Soto, as well as infielder Justin Toole. Kinston manager Aaron Holbert was named to the Carolina League's All-Star coaching staff.