Travis Hafner on track to return from disabled list Monday

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Travis Hafner was originally expected to miss four to six weeks after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on May 31. It sounds like he’ll be able to come pretty close to meeting the low end of that timetable.

Hafner began a minor league rehab assignment with Triple-A Columbus last night and went 1-for-3 with a strikeout. He’s expected to continue getting at-bats  in the minors through the weekend, but Indians manager Manny Acta told Jordan Bastian of MLB.com this afternoon that it’s “realistic” he’ll rejoin the team for Monday’s game against the Angels.

Hafner, 35, was hitting .242/.380/.439 with six homers, 23 RBI and an .819 OPS in 166 plate appearances prior to the surgery. The Indians have relied on multiple players to fill the DH spot during his absence.

Joey Votto: “I tried to get fatter. I succeeded at that apparently.”

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We’ve poked fun often at the spring training trope of players showing up to camp in the “best shape of [their] life.” Reds first baseman Joey Votto has turned that entirely on its head. Talking about his offseason, the 2010 NL MVP said, “I tried to get fatter. I succeeded at that apparently. We did all the testing and I am fatter,” Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto, of course, wasn’t trying to say he’s not in shape; he was just using some of his trademark self-deprecating humor.

Votto did get serious when discussing the state of the rebuilding Reds. As Buchanan also reported, Votto said, “I think we’re starting to get to the point where people are starting to get tired of this stretch of ball. I think something needs to start changing and start going in a different direction. I’m going to do my part to help make that change.”

Votto, 34, is under contract with the Reds through at least 2023, so he still has plenty of incentive to help see the rebuild through. He has been nothing short of stellar over the last three seasons. This past season, he hit .320/.454/.578 with 36 home runs, 100 RBI, and 106 runs scored in 707 appearances across all 162 games. Votto led the majors in walks (134) and on-base percentage and led the National League in OPS (1.032).

Despite Votto’s presence, both FanGraphs and PECOTA are projecting the Reds to put up a 74-88 record. The club had a pretty quiet offseason, expecting to enter 2018 with largely the same roster as last year.