CLEVELAND -- The Indians are giving Travis Hafner a chance to finish the season in the lineup -- not on the disabled list.
Hafner, who has battled a variety of injury woes over the past five seasons, was activated from the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday, following a bout with a back issue. The veteran designated hitter was in the sixth spot of the lineup to face the Twins.
"We're a better team when Hafner is in the lineup," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "Hafner has been here for a long time, and if he's ready to play, he deserves to play. Plus, he's not going to be taking any at-bats away from the guys that we really need to see."
Cleveland's medical staff has recommended that Hafner play just three times per week down the stretch this season. The DH will not be in the lineup on Thursday.
Acta indicated that Russ Canzler -- called up from Triple-A Columbus this month for a late-season audition -- could garner at-bats at both first base and left field with Hafner back in the fold. As a result, first baseman Casey Kotchman could lose at-bats down the stretch as he heads toward free-agent eligibility this winter.
Canzler was in Wednesday's lineup as the first baseman and seventh hitter.
In 60 games this season, the 35-year-old Hafner has hit .239 with 11 home runs and 32 RBIs, missing all of June with a right knee injury. The DH has hit just .208 over his past 48 games, dating back to April.
This winter, the Indians will need to decide between a $13 million club option for 2013 and a $2.75 million buyout of Hafner's contract. Cleveland is expected to take the less expensive option.
Acta pleased with effort down the stretch
CLEVELAND -- The Indians are no longer fighting for a place in the postseason, but that does not mean the ballclub is going out without a fight. In fact, the Tribe's decision makers are monitoring the players' efforts closely down the stretch.
So far, Indians manager Manny Acta has no complaints.
"They've been pretty good," Acta said prior to Wednesday's game against the Twins. "Some of those guys are obviously a little fatigued, and [August] took a toll on them mentally, but it's been a good response this month."
For evidence, Acta was quick to point to the fact that the Indians forced the American League West-leading Rangers and the AL Central-contending Tigers to use their closers in a stretch of six consecutive games, beginning on Sept. 11.
The way Acta sees it, that shows the players are still giving a strong effort.
"If you make two top teams in the American League bring in their closer six games in a row, they're giving their best," Acta said. "Just because you're not winning as much as you want to win, that doesn't mean that you've quit."
The Indians went 5-24 in August, falling out of the playoff chase during that forgettable stretch. For the season's final month, Acta said he made it clear to the players what the organization wanted to witness.
"Its time to evaluate and see character," Acta said. "We've seen how people's character was tested throughout the whole ordeal of the second half. That's something that's being evaluated. Who can handle it? Who can't? Who's going to point fingers?
"Who's going to take responsibility? Who's going to move forward? Who's going to keep their head down for too long? Those are things we're evaluating."
Hernandez throws 'pen session without problems
CLEVELAND -- The Indians are moving closer to making a decision on whether starter Roberto Hernandez will be able to pitch again for the club this season.
Hernandez experienced no problems with his ailing right ankle during a bullpen session on Tuesday, but manager Manny Acta said the pitcher still had issues with his mobility during other drills. The right-hander will throw off the mound and run through another workout on Friday.
"He's OK throwing the ball," Acta said. "But he's still not moving around 100 percent. I think the next bullpen and workout will dictate what we're going to do going forward."
Hernandez, 32, exited a start against the A's on Aug. 27 after spraining the ankle. It was a disappointing development, considering Cleveland planned on using the final month of the season to evaluate Hernandez with an eye toward next year.
In just three starts this season, Hernandez has gone 0-3 with a 7.53 ERA, providing a rough sample since rejoining the Indians' rotation. The pitcher missed the first four months while dealing with legal and visa problems after it was learned that he had been working under a false identity (Fausto Carmona).
Acta said the Indians have not seen enough of Hernandez to make a proper evaluation.
"Just a couple outings? No," Acta said.
Cleveland has a $6 million club option to retain Hernandez for the 2013 season. The pitcher would become a free agent this offseason if the team opts against picking up the option. Hernandez's season line and injury have complicated the situation.
"It makes it tough, but that's out of my box," Acta said. "We're going to have to wait and see how we're doing, depth-wise, with the pitching. That's going to be out there. That's not my decision. I'll probably have some kind of say in it, but that's not part of what I do."
Quote to note
"Listen, sometimes effort is not enough to win ballgames. Sometimes, the other team is just better than you."
Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera exited Wednesday's game in the eighth inning with right wrist soreness. He was replaced in the field by Brent Lillibridge. Cabrera has battled the injury on and off all month.
Indians third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall went 1-for-5 with a home run in Tuesday's 6-5 loss to the Twins. In eight games since coming off the disabled list, Chisenhall is hitting .280 (7-for-20) with two homers and four RBIs.
Infielder Jason Donald (sore right wrist) still has discomfort in his throwing hand, but is able to play catch and was available off the bench as a pinch-runner. Donald is not comfortable fielding or hitting yet.
The Indians set a franchise record by using 10 pitchers in a game on Tuesday. It fell one shy of tying the Major League record of 11 pitchers used. Cleveland used nine pitchers in a game twice (Sept. 14, 1971, and Sept. 14, 2006).