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06/08/07 9:36 PM ET

Notes: Hafner optimistic about starting

DH happy with how arthritic elbow is holding up this year

CINCINNATI -- There's a reason designated hitters don't double as sideline reporters. Staying on top of the in-game action isn't exactly their specialty.

On Friday night, for example, Red Sox DH David Ortiz told the Boston media that he didn't realize teammate Curt Schilling was tossing a no-hitter against the A's until one out into the ninth inning, shortly before it was broken up.

It's little wonder, then, that one of Travis Hafner's greatest fears as a DH is actually missing his turn at bat.

"I have to stay around a TV so I have some idea of what's going on," Hafner said. "Sometimes you can miss plays and stuff like that. You don't want to miss your turn."

The topic of Hafner's between-at-bats routine came up because it's a routine that will be rocked over the course of the next week, as the Indians take their annual dip into National League play.

Hafner's arthritic right elbow has prevented him from being much of a participant in these games in the past, but the Indians are a little more optimistic about his ability to start with more regularity at first base this year.

Pronk made the start at first on Friday night against the Reds and was expecting to start at least one other game in this weekend series at Great American Ball Park.

"The elbow has been good all year," he said. "I think I have a better program as far as how to deal with it. Our training staff does a great job. I don't see any problems with it, but until we start playing, it's tough to say."

Hafner, who has started five games at first this season, has scaled back the amount of throwing he does on the side in order to lessen the threat of the elbow flaring up.

"I've got a good maintenance and strengthening program for it," he said. "Mostly, in the past, it's been a volume issue. I would throw a lot, and it would fatigue. I feel I've gotten smarter in dealing with it."

Hafner has become an expert in dealing with the time between at-bats as a DH, but playing in the field obviously changes things.

"It's different than what I'm used to," he said. "You're more into the game, and you don't have to pump yourself up as much."

And you're much more aware if a no-hitter is going on.

Utility bill: The first priority of the utility infielder is to play solid defense. But a little spark in the bat never hurt anybody.

Mike Rouse hasn't provided much of an offensive spark this season. He entered Friday's game, in which he spelled Jhonny Peralta at shortstop, batting just .122 (5-for-41) with a pair of RBIs. He said he tries not to worry about the numbers.

"If I get into thoughts of this happening or that happening, it would work against me," Rouse said. "I try to keep it simple."

The Indians have been happy with Rouse's glove at second, short and third, and manager Eric Wedge said he appreciates that Rouse has, at the least, put up quality at-bats in terms of the number of pitches he has seen. Rouse was drawing 4.11 pitches per plate appearance.

Luis Rivas, the man Rouse beat out for the utility job, was batting .299 with seven homers and 27 RBIs at Triple-A Buffalo, but he had made 12 errors in the field.

Wedge said that the Indians aren't exploring other options for the utility role.

"We haven't had discussions about that just yet," Wedge said. "We always talk about our players in Buffalo, but we haven't had any serious discussions."

Here's the question ... Casey Blake entered Friday's action with a 16-game hitting streak. Who holds the club record for the most consecutive games with a base hit?

Vandy dandies: That two of the top 10 picks in this year's First-Year Player Draft -- left-hander David Price at No. 1 to the Devil Rays and right-hander Casey Weathers at No. 8 to the Rockies -- hailed from Vanderbilt University is a testament to the baseball program at Jeremy Sowers' alma mater.

"[Head coach Tim Corbin] has done a lot to change it around to a place where people want to go," Sowers said. "And it's going to be easy to replicate, because they have a constant influx of talent, especially in pitching."

The kids are all right: When Wedge was playing Triple-A ball at Colorado Springs in Boston's system, his manager was Brad Mills, who is now the bench coach for the Red Sox. So Wedge was pleased to see the Indians take Mills' son, Beau, with the No. 13 overall pick in Thursday's Draft.

Wedge also played with former Red Sox outfielder Mike Greenwell, whose son Bo, an outfielder from Riverside (Fla.) High School, was the Tribe's sixth-round pick on Friday.

"That makes me feel old," Wedge said. "I remember [the younger Greenwell] running around as a little kid. I was doing the math. ... That was '91 or '92, so he was about three years old."

Tribe tidbits: Right-hander Jake Westbrook made his second rehab start on Friday night, pitching for Double-A Akron against Portland. He was touched for four runs on five hits with three walks and a strikeout in 5 2/3 innings. He threw 56 pitches. ... Right-handed reliever Cliff Politte, recovering from rotator cuff surgery, will make his first appearance in the Minors this season when he pitches for Akron on Saturday. He is slated to work one inning. ... The Indians recently finished a stretch of 20 games in 20 days and are now on a streak of 16 games in 16 days, to be immediately followed by 17 games in 17 days. So Wedge is being careful to give players, such as Peralta, a break when possible. "With us losing our off-days, we've got to pick our spots with that," he said. ... Wedge is not calling the setup in right field a straight platoon, even though Franklin Gutierrez has recently been getting the starts against left-handed pitching in place of Trot Nixon. "I still wouldn't call it that," Wedge said. "We still work off Trot." Wedge takes a look at Nixon's numbers against the left-hander in question before deciding whether or not to start him.

Down on the farm: Buffalo left-hander Aaron Laffey gave up two runs on six hits over seven innings to pick up a 3-2 win over Scranton on Thursday. Ben Francisco had a pair of RBIs. ... Left-hander Shawn Nottingham gave up six runs on eight hits in just two innings, as Akron fell, 11-3, to New Hampshire. ... Catcher Max Ramirez and second baseman Jared Goedert each drove in a pair of runs, but Class A Kinston fell, 10-9, to Myrtle Beach. ... Designated hitter Matt McBride and right fielder Roman Pena both homered and drove in three runs in Class A Lake County's 10-7 win over Hagerstown.

And the answer is ... Nap Lajoie set the team record of 31 straight games with a hit in 1906.

On deck: The second installment of the Showdown of Ohio continues on Saturday at 7:10 p.m. ET at Great American Ball Park. Sowers (1-6, 6.63 ERA) will start opposite right-hander Matt Belisle (5-4, 4.48).

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.