Notes: Kouzmanoff gets the call
Tribe brings up slugger to fill in for injured Hafner
ARLINGTON -- The call came at midnight. It prompted a flight from Rochester, N.Y., to Cincinnati, then a delayed connecting flight to Dallas.This is how Kevin Kouzmanoff's big-league career began on Saturday, with the hot-hitting infielder arriving to Ameriquest Field shortly before batting practice to see he was in the Indians' starting lineup at designated hitter. "Things are going a million miles an hour," Kouzmanoff said. They didn't slow down any in the game. On the first pitch of Kouzmanoff's first big-league at-bat in the first inning, he hit a grand slam off the Rangers' Edinson Volquez.
Kouzmanoff had an inkling the callup might come on Tuesday, a day after Triple-A Buffalo's season comes to a close. But Friday night's hand injury suffered by DH Travis Hafner prompted a quicker move. The Indians purchased Kouzmanoff's contract from Buffalo and made him the 37th man on their 40-man roster."With Haf day-to-day, it made sense to get [Kouzmanoff] up here now," manager Eric Wedge said. "We'll try to get him some time at first base and some time at third." The 25-year-old Kouzmanoff has always been a third baseman, but the winter acquisition of Andy Marte set him back on the organizational food chain. The past week, he's mixed in some time at first base, a spot he had never before played as a pro. A persistent back injury suffered when he slipped from the top of the dugout steps while trying to field a pop fly during the 2004 Arizona Fall League had hampered Kouzmanoff's development up until this year. But with a preventative training program in the works this season, the back hasn't given him any trouble, and he's raked at the plate. At Double-A Akron, Kouzmanoff hit .389 with 15 homers and 55 RBIs in 67 games, despite missing three weeks with a strained left hamstring. He moved up to Buffalo on July 28 and has batted .353 with seven homers and 20 RBIs with the Bisons. His combined average of .379 between the two spots is the second best in the Minors. "This is probably the best season I've had so far," he said. "I try to treat every level the same. I have the same routine. The biggest thing is I'm getting pretty good pitches to hit and I'm hitting them, not fouling them off." Kouzmanoff's family, which includes his father, Marc, who briefly played with the NFL's Chicago Bears, was expected to be in attendance for his first game on Saturday night. Pronk watch: Hafner's right hand took all of about 30 seconds to puff up and turn a nasty purple and blue after C.J. Wilson's fastball hit it in the eighth inning of Friday's game. "I thought my career as a hand model might be over," Hafner joked. Pronk could make light because his season is not over, as it looked to be in the immediate aftermath of the injury. "I thought it was broken," Hafner said. "I had pretty sharp pain into my fingers. I was pretty excited when we had it X-rayed and it turned out it wasn't broken." Hafner was out of Saturday's starting lineup. He was still icing the hand about twice an hour, with the hope that he'd be available for pinch-hit duty. By getting hit by the pitch with the bases loaded, Hafner earned his 110th RBI as a DH this season. That broke Andre Thornton's club mark of 109, set in 1982. Though visibly upset at the time of the injury, Hafner said he didn't think Wilson was intentionally throwing at him. What's Choo doing? Outfielder Shin-Soo Choo no doubt created a stir in the Rangers clubhouse on Friday night, when he attempted to steal second base in the ninth inning, with the Indians comfortably ahead, 7-2. Choo was easily thrown out on the play. Wedge said Choo was not instructed to attempt to steal. "That was a mistake," Wedge said of Choo's attempt. "Let's just leave it at that." Here's the question: Hafner is just the second Indians player to achieve 40 homers, 100 walks, 100 runs scored and 100 RBIs in a season. Can you name the first? Big day: Kouzmanoff is wearing No. 11, but his jersey wasn't the only No. 11 hanging in the Indians clubhouse on Saturday. Right next to Kouzmanoff's locker was that of Aaron Boone, a devoted USC Trojans football fan, having attended the school. Boone hung the No. 11 jersey of former Trojans quarterback Matt Leinart, now with the Arizona Cardinals, over his jersey in honor of USC's season opener against Arkansas. "This is pretty much the best day of the year for me," Boone said. "I had my fantasy football draft in the morning, [ESPN's] 'Gameday' in the afternoon and the USC game is tonight." Down on the farm: Class A Kinston left-hander Chuck Logren was named the Carolina League Pitcher of the Year after going 17-5 with a 2.32 ERA in 25 starts. He leads all of pro baseball in wins. Lofgren joins Akron right-hander Adam Miller as the organization's second Minor Leaguer to win the award in his respective league. Tribe tidbits: Jhonny Peralta's streak of 41 games without an error came to an end on Friday night. Peralta ranks fourth among American League shortstops with a .977 fielding percentage. ... First baseman Ryan Garko has hit in 10 of his last 11 games, batting .341 with two homers and 11 RBIs. ... Nine of Grady Sizemore's last 10 hits have gone for extra bases. And the answer is: Jim Thome was the first. He did so in 1997, 2001 and '02. On deck: The Indians will wrap up their weekend series with the Rangers at 2:05 p.m. ET on Sunday at Ameriquest Field. Right-hander Paul Byrd (9-6, 4.74 ERA) will oppose right-hander Kevin Millwood (13-9, 4.64).
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.