06/18/07 10:04 PM ET
Notes: Hafner gets another day off
Wedge confident Tribe slugger will snap out of slide
By David Briggs / MLB.com
At least, "not since he's been established," Wedge said.
And the Tribe skipper surely never figured he'd be giving his middle-of-the order slugger two straight games off. At home with Hafner healthy, no less.
Yet Hafner's skid has reached the point to where that happened. Hafner sat for a second straight day Monday against tough Philadelphia left-hander Cole Hamels.
A few mental health days, Wedge said, might be just what it takes for the man known as Pronk to rediscover his swing.
"It's a good time to give him back-to-back days, give him a break," Wedge said.
Hafner's production has steadily declined this year. He hit .338 with five homers in April, .228 with five homers in May and .212 with no homers this month.
But while Hafner's .405 on base percentage have made his struggles easier to bear, it's this latest stretch of consistently weak outs that's forced Wedge's hand.
"The best thing about it is we've got a long way to go," Wedge said. "And the thing you know about great hitters is they're going to come back around. We need to help him do that."
Rising up: It's hard to catch Josh Barfield not in good spirits. The guy has two levels: happy and happier.
"As long as I get to play and contribute, I'm happy," Barfield said.
So Barfield had to be feeling pretty good Monday after being pushed into the No. 2 slot in the Tribe's order.
It's the spot many envisioned Barfield would eventually work his way into when Cleveland acquired him from San Diego last off-season. And after hitting .311 with 15 RBIs over the past month, it's the spot he at last finds himself occupying.
Barfield hit in nearly every spot of the Padres' order, but had not hit higher than seventh before Monday with the Indians. There is no indication the move is more than an experiment, but after rotating several players through the No. 2 hole this year, the Indians certainly wouldn't mind Barfield establishing himself there.
"Wherever I fit, I'm happy," Barfield said. "My approach doesn't change at all. I'm still trying to get on and move runners over. It's all the same. I know I won't change."
Homecoming: Think Charlie Manuel doesn't still follow the Tribe?
The Phillies manager almost sounded like a fan when asked his preseason thoughts on this year's Indians club.
"I was definitely concerned with their starting pitching," Manuel said.
So as Manuel returned to Jacobs Field for the first time Monday since he was dismissed as Tribe manager midway through the 2002 season, it certainly brought back a few memories.
"Good to be back," Manuel said. "The field looks good. The scoreboard's bigger than it was."
He maintained that he has no hard feelings about his departure.
Manuel, who posted a 220-191 record over two-plus seasons in Cleveland, asked for a long-term deal in July 2002. But the club had other plans, and Manuel, in the final year of his contract, was gone.
"No regrets," Manuel said. "I think there's something I could have done different. But I think you have to stand up for yourself. What I did was something I felt like I had to do. It might cost you, but that's how life is."
Where you at? Paul Byrd remembers the excitement of his Royals teammates some six years ago, but he couldn't understand why.
"Everybody said we're getting ready to go to Cleveland and how great a trip that was," Byrd said. Wait, Cleveland? Byrd figured that was one of the worst trips.
"I was wrong," he said. "The packed house, the excitement there, it was one of the best places to play in baseball."
So you can understand why Byrd is a little disappointed that there aren't more fans in the stands these days.
The Indians are averaging just 24,121 fans per game, which is 11th in the American League and 24th overall. Not one game against the Phillies this week has sold more than 20,000 tickets.
Sure, bad weather and a Cavaliers playoff run that captured the city have played a part in the overall numbers. But then again, the Indians are a first-place team.
"You kind of shake your head and wonder, 'Where did everybody go,' because we're winning now," Byrd said. "I think we have good fans, fans that care about the game. But yeah, I thought if we won, there would be more fans here. Maybe they need to see us win for a full year, or you'd like to think that, at least."
On this date: In 1950, the Tribe set an American League record by scoring 14 runs in the first inning of 21-2 win over Philadelphia at Cleveland Stadium. The surge also equaled a modern AL record for runs in any inning. Besides pitcher Mike Garcia, every Indian batted at least twice in the laugher over Connie Mack's Athletics.
Tribe tidbits: Injured starter Jake Westbrook, making his fourth rehab start for Triple-A Buffalo on Monday, allowed two runs (one earned) over four innings. He struck out three and walked four. ... The Indians and the Cuyahoga County Public Library System are set to kick off the 17th annual Grand Slam Literacy Program. Ryan Garko and members of the Indians' front office staff will appear Tuesday at Parma South Library and June 26 at the Orange Branch Library to share their favorite books with local children. The program's finale on July 16 at Jacobs Field will see a player reading from atop the dugout before the 12:05 p.m. ET game. ... Cleveland is 32-7 when it outhits its opponents, something it did not do in Sunday's win over Atlanta.
Down on the farm: Triple-A Buffalo's Sean Smith (5-5) tossed six innings of two-run ball and Jonathan Van Every had a solo homer in the Bisons' 3-2 loss to Norfolk on Sunday. Interestingly, longtime Tribe reliever Paul Shuey picked up his season's first save. The 36-year-old former first-round pick, now toiling in the Orioles' farm system, has not seen the big leagues since 2003. ... Pitching and a lack of offense were also the story in Double-A Akron's 3-1 loss to Portland. Scott Lewis (2-4) gave up just two runs -- one earned -- on six hits over five innings in the effort.
On deck: The Indians continue their three-game set with the Phillies on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. ET at Jacobs Field. Jason Stanford (1-0, 1.50 ERA) will get a second start against Philadelphia right-hander Kyle Kendrick (0-0, 4.50 ERA).
David Briggs is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.