Indians designated hitter Travis Hafner hasn’t played first base since 2007 and that’s not likely to change anytime soon. According to John Barone of MLB.com, the one they call “Pronk” will be limited to pinch-hitting duties during the Tribe’s upcoming nine-game interleague road trip.
The expedition through National League ballparks begins Friday, when the Indians open a three-game series against the Pirates. The club will travel from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia for a three-game set, then it’s off to Cincinnati to wrap things up. Hafner may get around nine at-bats over that span, if he’s lucky.
“It wouldn’t be fair to him,” manager Manny Acta said on the topic of Hafner possibly playing the field. “What are we going to do? Hit
him one million grounders today so he’ll be ready tomorrow? He doesn’t
get defensive work.”
Hafner entered Thursday hitting .258/.372/.438 with eight home runs and 26 RBI over 194 at-bats. He’s 9-for-24 with two doubles, four homers and eight RBI over his past eight games. A prolonged hot streak will have to wait.
Oft-injured pitcher Josh Johnson is retiring from baseball, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick is reporting.
Johnson, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2013. The right-hander underwent his third Tommy John surgery in September 2015 but wasn’t able to bounce back.
Johnson spent most of his career with the Marlins, but also pitched for the Blue Jays in the big leagues, as well as the Padres in the minors. He retires with a career 3.40 ERA, 915 strikeouts across 998 innings in the majors, and two All-Star nominations. Johnson led the National League with a 2.30 ERA in 2010, finishing fifth in NL Cy Young Award balloting. One wonders what he could have accomplished if he was able to stay healthy.
The Angels are nearing a multi-year deal with free agent third baseman Luis Valbuena, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports. It’s believed to be a two-year contract with a third-year option.
Valbuena, 31, hit .260/.357/.459 with 13 home runs and 40 RBI in 342 plate appearances in 2016. He missed most of the second half with a hamstring injury, for which he underwent surgery in late August.
Valbuena has played a majority of his career at third base, but also has extensive experience at second base and has racked up innings at first base and shortstop as well. He won’t play every day for the Angels, as Yunel Escobar lays claim to third base and C.J. Cron first base, but he will give them flexibility and a left-handed bat off the bench.