If there was one thing that I was fairly sure about heading into the 2011 season, it’s that Travis Hafner would never be the same player that he was before he signed his large contract, became injury prone and seemingly lost all his power and worth to a rebuilding club like the Cleveland Indians.

I know it’s early, but boy does it seem like I was wrong.

Tribe manager Manny Acta indicated early in spring training that Hafner was going to play more this season, was 100 percent for the first time in a long time and that there was no need to worry about the surgically repaired shoulder.

These comments weren’t all that surprising, since we’ve been hearing the same thing since the days of Eric Wedge. What was surprising was the fact that other than Acta’s brief bro-mance with the 34-year-old DH, there hadn’t (hasn’t) been all that much discussion about the shoulder from the Indians’ camp.

As a matter of fact, it’s been a non-factor.

Hafner has currently played in 11 of the Tribe’s first 14 games, and has done his best to imitate his former self. Hafner is currently hitting .293, with three homers, eight RBI and an .884 OPS.

Last season, Hafner didn’t hit his third homer until May 5th, and never hit above .281.

Certainly, the season is still early, but Hafner is clearly hitting the ball harder than he has in the past few seasons. Still, what I still can’t get out of my mind is the 2009 season, in which Hafner came out of the gate like the Pronk of old. After the sixth game of the season, Hafner had three homers and six RBI, and his slugging would ultimately reach a peak of .714 in those early days of the season.

I was already to re-dub Hafner to his old Pronk self. Unfortunately, the injury bug bit, and Hafner was placed on the DL for soreness and fatigue to that wonderful shoulder.

Nobody thought it was all that serious, including Eric Wedge, but it turned out that Hafner had to miss over a month. He would return and wouldn’t have a horrid season, but Pronk was seemingly gone.

Enter 2011. The Indians are playing outstanding baseball, and find themselves at 10-4 early on. Every card is lining up for the Tribe so far, including Hafner. Is it a false sense of security for the Tribe slugger? Is he just getting some extra protection because of a slew of hot bats, or is the shoulder finally as strong as it was five years ago, prior to the injury bug?

If it is, that false sense of security I just mentioned, just got a little less false.

Welcome back Pronk, we’ll take it as long as we can get it.


Jim Pete also writes for Indians Prospect Insider and Bringing Back Boudreau

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