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.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Royals and first baseman Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension. However, Hosmer also indicated that he will head into free agency if a deal is not consummated by Opening Day.
Hosmer, 27, avoided arbitration with the Royals last month, agreeing to a $12.25 million salary for the 2017 season. He is one of four key Royals players who can become a free agent after the season along with Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, and Lorenzo Cain. If Hosmer does reach free agency, he would arguably be the top free agent first baseman.
Hosmer finished the past season hitting .266/.328/.433 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI while making his first All-Star team.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, pending a physical. Assuming the deal is finalized, Sherman notes that the Yankees will have Niese work as both a starter and a reliever in big league camp this spring.
According to Sherman, the Yankees were interested in lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan, but didn’t want to commit at their asking prices. They are looking for a lefty set-up man along with Tommy Lane.
Niese, 30, pitched for the Pirates and Mets last season, finishing with a 5.50 ERA and an 88/47 K/BB ratio over 121 innings.