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06/19/08 10:45 PM ET

Hafner's return remains in question

Slugger doesn't need surgery, but needs more strength

DENVER -- Renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews concurred with the Indians' original prognosis on Travis Hafner's injured right shoulder. Hafner's rotator cuff and shoulder muscles need strengthening, not surgery.

On the one hand, that's comforting news for the Indians in that their original assessment was backed up. Then again, it doesn't mean Pronk is any closer to playing.

In fact, the Indians have offered no assurances that Hafner is any closer to returning to their lineup now than he was when they placed him on the 15-day disabled list May 30.

Though the 31-year-old Hafner has spent the last two weeks doing strengthening exercises on his shoulder, he hasn't progressed to the point of being ready to go out on a Minor League rehab assignment.

"Our hope is that, as we get deeper into his strengthening program," head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff said, "we'll see significant gains every seven to 10 days."

The Indians sent Hafner to see Andrews on Wednesday. It was the doctor's recommendation that the club evaluate Pronk's shoulder every seven to 10 days to gauge its progress. Soloff said there "certainly could be" several seven- to 10-day evaluation periods, which means Hafner's return-to-play timetable looks hazy..

Just how strong does Hafner's shoulder have to get?

"That's the million-dollar question," Soloff said. "I would say it has to be strong and stable enough to swing the bat the way he's accustomed to swinging the bat, with the proper mechanics."

Though Hafner was doing strength exercises on his shoulder while he was playing -- and putting together a .217 average with four homers and 22 RBIs in 46 games -- he wasn't actually getting any stronger, Soloff said.

"In the absence of irritating the shoulder with game activity, our hope is that he'll make strength gains," Soloff said.

Those gains haven't come yet. But neither Indians medical director Dr. Mark Schickendantz nor Andrews feel surgery is in order, and Soloff did not seem to think it would be necessary in the offseason, either.

"[Andrews] was very straightforward that he does not feel that surgery helps [Hafner's] condition," Soloff said.

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