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05/08/08 12:30 PM ET
Tribe play finale without two big bats
Ailing Martinez, struggling Hafner sit against Mussina, Yankees
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- Victor Martinez is still wincing, Travis Hafner is still struggling, and the Indians, as a result, fielded a lineup Thursday that was devoid of the two hitters once considered cornerstones of the offense. Martinez remains bothered by a stiff neck that held him out of Tuesday's series opener with the Yankees and limited him to designated-hitter duties Wednesday. The catcher drove in the Tribe's first run with a sacrifice fly in the first inning. "He sucked it up to play [Wednesday]," Wedge said before Thursday's series finale at Yankee Stadium. "He doesn't have great numbers against [Yankees starter Mike Mussina], and it's a day game after a night game, so we're going to give him a day." Martinez, who opts not to turn his head during interviews these days, said he had treatment on the neck Thursday morning, but it wasn't progressing. For a variety of reasons, Wedge would like to see Martinez return to the lineup at home Friday night against the Blue Jays, but the Indians aren't sure he'll be ready. Martinez, batting .337 this season, is the Tribe's only regular with an average above .265. He's also instrumental in working with the pitching staff. "We need to get him back behind the plate," Wedge said. "But there are certain areas, like the neck and back, that affect everything." Hafner hasn't had much of a positive effect at the plate this season, and last week's move to the No. 6 spot of the order hasn't led to better results. Pronk has just 10 hits in his last 65 at-bats over the last 18 games, driving in seven runs in that span. He pinch-hit with the bases loaded in the ninth inning Wednesday, and grounded into a double play on a ball that didn't even make it past the dirt in front of home plate. Hafner had Wednesday off because of Martinez's need to DH, but Thursday's day off was more of the "mental health" variety. Hafner has been out of the Tribe's lineup three out of the last seven games. "He's handled it well," Wedge said. "He's handling it the way it should be handled. He's not happy with it. This is where we've got to help him and he's got to help himself. I still feel very strong that he's going to come through this, and we'll help him to be as good as he's been before." Hafner, batting just .209 with a .339 slugging percentage and .301 on-base percentage for the season, is looking for consistency. "I've used the whole field fairly well, but I need to hit more line drives," he said. "I'm working on some stuff. Hopefully it will turn around quickly."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.