Notes: Sweet start for Hafner
Big hits, candy bar mark early season for Tribe slugger
CLEVELAND -- No surer sign of American celebrity exists than having a candy bar named in your honor.And no better endorser of such a product exists than Travis Hafner, for whom the newly unveiled "Pronk Bar" was christened. What does a Pronk Bar taste like? "Probably the best candy bar you'll ever taste," said Hafner, the man affectionately referred to as "Pronk" (part project/part donkey) in these parts. The good people at Malley's Chocolates of Cleveland approached Hafner about the possibility of naming a candy bar after him during the offseason. When the company sent him some samples of the bar recently, Hafner wasn't expecting much out of them. But when he bit into the bar, which tastes much like a Nestle Crunch bar but with "better chocolate," as Hafner is quick to point out, the Tribe's designated hitter said he was satisfactorily stunned. "I'm being dead serious," he said. "Of all the candy bars I've ever had, this is probably the best one." Of all the hitting streaks Hafner has been on in his career, the one he took into Sunday's game against the Twins was the best one. Hafner came into the game having reached base in 10 straight plate appearances, going 7-for-7 with three home runs and three walks. The fine stretch became possible, Hafner claims, because of a mechanical adjustment he made when the Indians returned to Cleveland on Friday. He took advantage of the indoor batting cages he used throughout the offseason to better prepare himself for quality at-bats. "It's good to be home," Hafner said. "Between at-bats, I'm able to come in and take some swings. I was able to make some improvements." But as far as Hafner is concerned, there's no improving the Pronk Bar, which is being sold for $1 in the Greater Cleveland area. He made sure to pass them out to his teammates, dubbing himself a "proud papa." Should sales of the Pronk Bar boom, maybe Hafner will become the namesake of other products. A Pronk Burger, made out of donkey meat, perhaps? Hafner laughed at the proposition. Then the self-deprecating slugger joked, "It can't be any health or beauty products. That's for sure." Caution is key: The Indians are being cautious with the return of second baseman Ronnie Belliard, who remains day to day. Belliard was out of the lineup again Sunday, sitting with a mild strain of his right calf. Belliard suffered the injury in the middle of the seventh inning Friday, as he was jogging off the field. Manager Eric Wedge speculated the injury occurred as a result of the cold Cleveland weather. Ramon Vazquez, the club's utility infielder, was once again in the starting lineup in Belliard's place. Here's the question: In 1999, the Indians were the bearers of the most lopsided defeat in postseason history. Who defeated the Tribe in that game and what was the final score? (See answer below) On the mend: First baseman Michael Aubrey, who's recovering from a rib-cage injury, remains in Winter Haven, Fla., and likely won't be moving north until late this month or in early May, farm director John Farrell said. "Our goal is to get him to the point of three to four days a week in extended Spring Training before we can get him out," Farrell said. The 23-year-old Aubrey, the Tribe's No. 1 pick in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft, will report to Class A Kinston once he's fit enough to play every day. Did you know?: The Indians began the 2002 season with a 5-1 record. Tribe tidbits: Left-hander C.C. Sabathia played catch Sunday for the first time since going on the disabled list with a strained right abdominal muscle. Sabathia said he has felt no pain the past week since suffering the injury on Opening Day in Chicago on April 2. ... Hafner's streak of reaching base in 10 straight at-bats is the longest by an Indians player since Jim Thome did the same from Aug. 25-27, 1996. ... Right fielder Casey Blake hit just .085 (5-for-59) with runners in scoring position and two outs last season, but he came into Sunday having gone 3-for-3 in such situations this year. ... The Tribe's annual First Pitch Luncheon will be held at noon ET on Tuesday at the Wolstein Center at Cleveland State University. Fans can register for the event at Indians.com. And the answer is: The Indians were thumped by the Red Sox, 23-7, on Oct. 10, 1999. Boston's 23 runs and 24 hits were the most ever by a postseason team. On deck: The Indians will take a breather Monday before returning to Jacobs Field for Tuesday's 7:05 p.m. ET game against the Mariners. Left-hander Cliff Lee (0-0, 5.06 ERA) will make his second start of the season against left-hander Jarrod Washburn (1-0, 2.57).
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.