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Knee surgery will sideline Hafner four to six weeks

The SportsXchange

The Cleveland Indians lost a game and lost a key hitter Wednesday.

Prior to their 6-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals, the Indians announced they had put designated hitter Travis Hafner on the disabled list. Hafner will undergo arthroscopic surgery Thursday to repair frayed meniscus in his right knee.

Team trainer Lonnie Soloff said Hafner would be sidelined for four to six weeks. The injury comes at a bad time for the Indians, who are struggling to score runs.

In losing the last two games to Kansas City, Cleveland was outscored 14-5.

Hafner, the Indians' cleanup hitter, had not appeared in a game since May 23. The Indians are also playing without their No. 5 hitter, Carlos Santana, who is on the disabled list with a mild concussion. Third baseman Jack Hannahan is on the DL as well, with a left calf strain.

The Indians do not have the depth to survive the loss of so many key hitters for a long period of time. The question is: What do they do now? It seems likely that the team will have to recall a hitter from Class AAA Columbus to take the place of Hafner, although the immediate move was the bring up left-handed reliever Scott Barnes.

The most obvious choice would be Matt LaPorta, who lost the first base job in spring training and has been splitting playing time at first base and left field at Columbus. After hitting a solo homer Wednesday, LaPorta is hitting .309 with 14 home runs and 31 RBI in Class AAA.

If recalled, LaPorta could take Hafner's spot as the designated hitter. LaPorta has the added benefit of being a right-handed hitter in a Cleveland lineup that is heavy with left-handers.

LaPorta could also play some left field, which is being currently being shared by Johnny Damon and Shelley Duncan, neither of whom is his hitting for a very high average. In addition, LaPorta could give first baseman Casey Kotchman an occasional day off.
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