Travis Hafner‘s injury has left a large hole in the Indians’ lineup. Say what you want about his contract, but Pronk has been one of the Tribe’s best and most consistent hitters over the last few years, and there’s no way to easily replicate his offensive output. He’d have been benched this weekend anyway as Cleveland heads to St. Louis for some interleague action, but he’ll be absent from the lineup for far longer than this one series.
In this edition of the Weekly Wroundtable, we asked our panelists: Who should DH while Travis Hafner is out? Joining our panel of Wahoo’s on First writers this week is former Tribe blogger Andy Cooper. Here’s what we all had to say:
Andy Cooper: The choice is Jose Lopez, and it’s not close.This isn’t necessarily the choice by default, even though in reality, given the other options, it is. But for his part, Lopez has hit safely in all but four of the games in which he’s had an official at-bat, so he automatically provides some much-needed consistency. The pop in his bat isn’t great, and there are certainly flaws in his approach, but what would you expect from a veteran journeyman? To borrow Eric Wedge’s favorite line, “He’s a professional hitter.” And let’s be honest, the Tribe is replacing a .242-hitting DH, not Babe Ruth. Lopez will get the job done until the team’s other washed-up veterans get healthy and productive.
I also think it’s appropriate to interject a comment about how poorly prepared the Indians were for this very event of Hafner going on the DL. Did they really think this year – of all years – was going to be the one that Hafner magically stayed healthy? Rather than acquire a DH who can play left field (such as Vladimir Guerrero or Bobby Abreu), the Indians placed their bets on a left fielder who can DH (Damon). In my view, this was a significant error in judgment; we’ll see how much it hurts them during this stretch without Hafner.
Lewie Pollis: I thought the way Manny Acta handled the DH spot this week in Detroit—i.e., using Carlos Santana—was perfect. The Indians can’t afford to keep him out of the lineup, but making sure he’s okay after his concussion is of the utmost importance. The DH spot won’t matter this weekend, but Santana should be the choice to fill it whenever he’s available so long as the Tribe’s medical staff is concerned about his health.
Once he’s cleared and ready to catch, the spot should be all Matt LaPorta‘s. I’m not completely drinking the Kool-Aid on him this year, especially since his old weaknesses have already started to appear, but he’s been absolutely tearing the cover off the ball in Triple-A this year. If he comes anywhere close to his Minor League Equivalencies he’ll be one of the Tribe’s best hitters. And if we’re not going to give him a real chance when his bat is hot and there’s a clear spot open for him, why even operate under the pretense that he has a future with this team?
Geordy Boveroux: I think Matt LaPorta deserves at least a chance to show he can handle a regular spot in the lineup. The Indians can maximize what potential is left in his bat while Casey Kotchman handles first base and provides much better defense.
I’ve said before how I don’t think LaPorta’s Triple-A numbers show he’s a changed man, but a hot LaPorta beats any other options out there. I’d even take him over the struggling Johnny Damon, that is unless LaPorta reverts back to his old ways.
Katie Hendershot: With Travis Hafner out, it gives Manny Acta a variety of options to fill the role of designated hitter. Interleague play is up ahead, so the strain to fill the role isn’t as pressing as it might be at any other time of the year. The Indians will play three series at National League parks in the coming weeks.
Given the current state of the roster, I think it would be beneficial to give Carlos Santana time in the DH role and let Lou Marson pick up some time behind the plate. With injuries already threatening the roster, it would be helpful to give Santana rest and Marson has been better at the plate lately. Shelley Duncan also could fill in at DH too.
Brian Heise: I’m torn on this one. Part of me feels like the Indians should alternate between Jose Lopez and Lonnie Chisenhall. Right now they’re probably the two best options on the roster who can make any type of consistent contribution with their bat, particularly Lopez who had been a serviceable fill in for Jack Hannahan. It’s also a simple solution as Manny Acta can alternate them between third base and DH which would allow both to get some rest while not sacrificing at-bats.
On the other hand, there’s Matt LaPorta. The Indians never have and never will value LaPorta for his glove work. It’s his bat and power hitting potential that was supposed to be the difference. If this is going to be his last hurrah in the big leagues for the Indians why not put him at DH the next 4-6 weeks and see what he can do? Play him everyday, let him get comfortable, and let him focus solely on hitting. Who knows what might happen in that situation. If it doesn’t work out Hafner gets his job back when healthy. It’s a big risk, but ultimately might have a bigger reward than either Lopez or Chisenhall. I say give him a shot.
Steve Kinsella: Imagine if there was a blood test that could determine the severity of a concussion within an hour of a blow to the head? Currently, Canadian researchers are examining the link between proteins in the blood of patients that suffer head trauma, including mild concussions, which in the future will help determine the course of therapy as well as the risk of further damage from second impact damage from an additional blow to the head.
Until this medical breakthrough becomes as common as a blood test to indicate heart, kidney, or liver problems the Indians should attempt to give Carlos Santana as many games as possible as the designated hitter. As Carlos Santana is arguably the most important asset the Indians hold they should attempt to put as much distance as possible between his mild concussion and a second blow to the head.