CLEVELAND -- There won't be a mass exodus north on I-71 when rosters expand on Thursday. That's because most of the Indians' young talent has already made the trek from Triple-A Columbus to Cleveland.
As a result of the Indians' plethora of injuries, the club has had to rely on inexperienced players. The Tribe has already employed nine rookies this season: third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall, second baseman Jason Kipnis, outfielder Ezequiel Carrera, second baseman Cord Phelps, outfielder Jerad Head and pitchers Vinnie Pestano, Zach McAllister, Alex White and Josh Judy.
"It's valuable that they're up here, not only learning and playing, but also playing meaningful games in September," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "For some of the guys that probably will get the chance to do it here over the next few seasons, and even the guys who probably aren't going to be here the next few seasons, they'll have that good experience."
Major League teams can inflate their rosters to as many as 40 players between Thursday and the conclusion of the regular season.
"There are probably a few guys that are going to come up from [Columbus]," Acta said. "That team is going to be involved in the playoffs, but there's a chance we bring some arms up and take a look at them over here."
Not everyone can rejoin the Indians right away. Major League guidelines dictate that any player optioned to the Minors can't return to the big league squad for 10 days, unless that player is replacing one put on the disabled list.
The Tribe optioned rookie reliever Nick Hagadone to Columbus on Sunday to clear room for Head. Unless he takes the spot of an injured player, Hagadone isn't eligible to rejoin the club until Sept. 7. First baseman Matt LaPorta, sent down to Triple-A on Tuesday, can't rejoin the Tribe until Sept. 9.
Possible callups include: reliever Chen Lee, who is 4-0 with a 2.12 ERA in 20 appearances; reliever Zach Putnam, who is 5-3 with a 3.84 ERA and eight saves in 42 outings; infielder Luis Valbuena, who has made two tours with the Tribe this season; and first baseman Nick Johnson, a veteran first baseman who is batting just .206 in 52 games.
Hafner expected to play again this season
CLEVELAND -- Designated hitter Travis Hafner, one of a slew of Tribe hitters on the disabled list, will return to a big league diamond before the end of the season, Indians skipper Manny Acta said on Wednesday.
"I think we're going to be able to see him again," Acta said. "We don't have a timetable yet, but that's encouraging news to know that he's going to join our club and be able to play again this year."
Hafner strained a tendon on the bottom of his foot while attempting to stretch a single into a double during the Indians' 8-7 loss to the Tigers on Aug. 21. Hafner may need surgery to repair the tendon, but that has been delayed until the offseason, if needed.
Hafner is currently in a walking boot.
Hafner will certainly be eased into action once he's ready to return. The Indians already have a veteran, left-handed power-hitting DH in Jim Thome, and Acta envisions a platoon at the position working out well.
"Coming from the injury that Hafner's going to be coming back from, obviously he's not going to be able to play every single day," Acta said. "Thome's in the same situation, so they'll share duties."
In the past, Acta has often pinch-run for Hafner when he reaches base late in the game, capitalizing on the speed off his bench. That, however, has left the Indians without their slugger when games advance to extra innings. Now, with both Thome and Hafner at his disposal, Acta doesn't foresee running into that problem.
"It'll give me an advantage now in September," Acta said. "I'll be able to pinch-run for either of them in the seventh now, and then I'll have whichever didn't play to bat in the ninth."
Brantley undergoes season-ending surgery
CLEVELAND -- Michael Brantley underwent surgery on Wednesday to have the hamate bone in his right hand removed.
Dr. Thomas Graham, a hand specialist, performed the procedure at the Cleveland Clinic. Brantley landed on the 15-day disabled list on Friday and was transferred to the 60-day DL on Sunday. He's expected to make a full recovery in six-nine weeks.
Brantley fought soreness in his right wrist for much of August. He played in only 14 games this month, hitting .211 (12-for-57). Indians head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff said it's unclear if the fractured hamate bone in his hand triggered the pain in his wrist. Brantley is eager to play pain-free next season.
"That's the one good thing, that it's not lingering," Brantley said. "You can take care of it. It's not something that's going to hinder you your whole career."
Brantley batted .266 with seven homers and 46 RBIs in 114 games this season.
Grady Sizemore began his Minor League rehab assignment on Wednesday with the Akron Aeros. He started at designated hitter and batted leadoff, going 0-for-3 with a pair of groundouts and a strikeout. The Indians plan for Sizemore to play six innings in center field on Thursday, then take Friday off. After that, they'll re-evaluate him each day before determining a timetable to return to the big leagues.
"It depends on how he feels and when he feels he's going to be ready to come up here and contribute," Tribe manager Manny Acta said.
The Indians named right-handed pitcher Paolo Espino the organization's Minor League Player of the Week. In two starts for Triple-A Columbus last week, Espino pitched 11 scoreless innings, surrendering just three hits while striking out 13. He made both starts on three days rest. His seven shutout innings on Friday lifted the Clippers to a 5-0 victory that clinched the International League West Division Championship. In 32 appearances (nine starts) between Double-A Akron and Columbus, Espino has posted an 8-1 record with a 2.72 ERA.
Indians pitching farmhands Austin Adams, T.J. McFarland, Matt Packer and Tyler Sturdevant -- who all played for Double-A Akron this season -- will suit up for the Phoenix Desert Dogs of the Arizona Fall League. The league's 20th season starts on Oct. 4. On the Desert Dogs' roster, there is a spot reserved for a catcher, infielder and outfielder from the Indians' organization, but all three positions are listed as TBA.
Zack Meisel is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.