Travis Hafner is back from the disabled list after sitting out the past four weeks with an oblique injury and the Indians created a roster spot for his return by optioning Travis Buck to Triple-A.
Hafner is in the lineup tonight as the designated hitter and cleanup man, but starting next Friday his playing time will be limited as the Indians begin a nine-game road trip in NL ballparks. Manny Acta has said that Hafner won’t be asked to play any first base, limiting him to pinch-hitting duties.
Acta also indicated that he wanted to see Hafner play more games at Double-A before deciding he was ready, but Hafner going 3-for-6 with a double in two rehab starts apparently convinced the Indians it was time.
Buck, who was signed as a free agent this offseason after being cut loose by the A’s, hit just .226 with a .617 OPS in 29 games. Hafner hit .345 with a .958 OPS in 32 games before the injury.
The Cubs soundly defeated the Cardinals on Monday night, 10-2, sending their magic number down to one. They will try to clinch the NL Central on Tuesday with another win against the Cardinals. Alternatively, if they lose, they can still clinch if the Brewers also lose on Tuesday.
The Cubs, of course, won the Central last year en route to winning their first World Series since 1908. It wasn’t nearly as easy this year as the club was below .500 entering June and was exactly at .500 entering July. A 16-8 July, 17-12 August, and 15-8 September have helped put the Cubs back in position to return to the postseason.
Not to be forgotten, the Cardinals were eliminated from NL Central contention with Monday’s loss. Now they have their sights set on the second NL Wild Card slot and currently trail the Rockies in that race.
The matchups for Tuesday’s action:
Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union Tribune reports that Padres pitcher Carter Capps will undergo surgery this offseason to address thoracic outlet syndrome, which doctors believe caused the right-hander’s blood clots. The Padres hope to have him ready by spring training next year.
Capps, 27, underwent Tommy John surgery last year and didn’t debut this season until August 7. He made 11 relief appearances, yielding nine runs on 12 hits and two walks with seven strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings. He went back on the DL on September 12 due to the blood clot issue.
The Padres acquired Capps from the Marlins last July in the Andrew Cashner trade which ended up having a lot of moving parts. Capps will enter his third and final year of arbitration eligibility this offseason. It’s quite possible the Padres choose to non-tender him.