Notes: Pronk showing human side
Designated hitter struggling on Tribe's nine-game road trip
BOSTON -- Hitting coach Derek Shelton cautions observers of the Indians not to take Travis Hafner for granted.
"We've set our expectations so high for him," Shelton said. "When he's struggling, it becomes a hot topic. But when he's hitting, everybody treats it as what they expect. The fact is, he's human."
What is rare about the 2007 season, to this point, is that Hafner has shown his human side more often than not. This particular road trip has been a tough one for him, as he's notched just five hits in 30 at-bats with an un-Pronk-like eight strikeouts.
"Travis is in a spot right now where he can't give into the fight," manager Eric Wedge said. "We're all confident that he'll get back to being as consistent as he's always been."
Though frustrated with a season that has seen him hit .260 with nine homers and 34 RBIs, Hafner has remained upbeat.
"Most at-bats, I'm seeing the ball pretty well," he said. "Actually, I've felt pretty good the last week or so. I'm not getting the results I want, but I feel good and comfortable. I know I can hit, and I'm working hard to see better results."
In several games this season, including Monday night, when he struck out four times, Hafner has shown an uncharacteristic penchant for swinging at pitches out of the zone and laying off some hittable ones.
"The most important thing [for Hafner] is getting in a good position to hit and doing it consistently," Shelton said. "He needs to be in a good position to impact the baseball."
Though Hafner's impact hasn't been quite as expected, the Indians' offense has still managed to generate 5.52 runs per game, which has obviously played a major role in their 31-19 start.
That record has prevented Hafner from getting too worked up over his numbers.
"For me, it's all about winning," Hafner said. "It's great coming to the park when the team's playing well. When we win, I'm happy. I just haven't swung the bat like I can."
Down goes Miller: Top prospect Adam Miller won't return to the Triple-A Buffalo rotation for at least three weeks after receiving a cortisone injection in the middle finger on his right throwing hand Tuesday.
Miller hasn't pitched since May 12 because of a strain of a pulley in that finger. The Indians sent him to hand specialist Dr. Thomas Graham in Baltimore, where the injection was given. Miller will be shut down from throwing for five days, then he'll be placed on a two-week throwing program. He was placed on the Buffalo disabled list Wednesday.
Head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff said Miller's injury, which took place toward the end of the finger, could have been more serious if it happened closer to where the finger meets the hand.
"We're happy it is what it is," Soloff said. "This bodes well for the guy pitching competitively in the next four weeks."
Miller is 4-1 with a 2.45 ERA in seven starts for the Bisons this season.
Here's the question ... You know who the Indians' current designated hitter is. But can you name the club's first regular-season DH from 1973?
Percival pursuit: The Indians had a representative on-hand for the bullpen session former Angels and Tigers closer Troy Percival threw in California on Tuesday, and general manager Mark Shapiro's synopsis was succinct.
"He threw, and he was fine," Shapiro said.
Fine enough, apparently, that the Indians wouldn't mind speaking with Percival's agent, Paul Cohen.
"His agent will dictate the process," Shapiro said.
Percival hasn't pitched since 2005, when he suffered a forearm injury that forced him into the retirement. He had 324 saves over an 11-year career. Shapiro said the volatility of big-league bullpens forces teams like the Indians to look into a player like Percival when he's available, regardless of him missing two years of action.
"It's also rare for a free agent to be available at this time and to not have to make a trade [to acquire a player]," Shapiro said.
Catching up with Coco: What's the difference between the Coco Crisp of today and the one who was traded to the Red Sox by the Indians in January 2006?
"I'm more mature now," Crisp said.
Does that mean Crisp is mature?
"No," he said with a smile. "I just said I'm more mature than I was."
Crisp isn't quite the fun-loving free spirit he was when manning left field for the Tribe. The glare of the Boston spotlight seems to have changed him a bit. Where he used to joke around with the Cleveland media regularly, he has turned a bit icy toward Boston reporters this season.
But Red Sox manager Terry Francona has warmed to Crisp's play in center field, and Crisp believes his arm is stronger than ever.
"People can't say I don't have [arm strength] anymore," Crisp said. "In the outfield, I couldn't find my arm slot. [Bench coach Brad Mills] told me to [go] back to the way I was throwing as a kid. It's weird, because I'm throwing from a shorter arm slot."
Tribe tidbits: Wedge believed it was important he stick with struggling reliever Fernando Cabrera in Tuesday night's game, even after Cabrera walked the first three batters he faced. Cabrera struck out Julio Lugo to end the seventh inning. "I wanted to give him a chance to get through it," Wedge said. "It wasn't a successful performance, but I'm hopeful he can use getting that last out to help him the next time." ... Rafael Perez, on the other hand, was outstanding in two scoreless innings of work, allowing just a double to Manny Ramirez. "In the time he's been up here, he's shown he can get big-league hitters to swing and miss," Wedge said. ... Catcher Victor Martinez was given Wednesday night off, with former Boston prospect Kelly Shoppach getting the start at Fenway in his place.
And the answer is ... John Ellis became the Indians' first DH on April 7, 1973, batting cleanup on Opening Day against the Tigers. Ellis went 0-for-4 in that game. Oscar Gamble was the Tribe's most frequent DH in '73 (259 at-bats), though the job was also filled by Dave Duncan, Ron Lolich, John Lowenstein, Charlie Spikes and Walt Williams at various points.
On deck: The Indians return to Jacobs Field to begin a seven-game homestand and a four-game series with the Tigers on Thursday at 7:05 p.m. ET. For the second time in as many starts, left-hander C.C. Sabathia (7-1, 3.54 ERA) will oppose right-hander Justin Verlander (5-1, 2.71) in the opener.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.