Hafner earns Player of the Month honors
Designated hitter belted league-high 13 home runs in August
An MVP discussion can no longer be had without including Indians designated hitter Travis Hafner among the candidates.
Actually, Hafner's performance in August, which includes the league-high 13 home runs he hammered and the 30 runners he plated, thrust his name to the center of that discussion. Hafner also batted .361 (35-for-97) for the month and put together a 14-game hitting streak a couple of weeks ago.
As a result, he was voted the American League Player of the Month for August.
"We always talk about Travis as a hitter first," Indians manager Eric Wedge said. "He wants to be up there in key situations, and he gets on base. It's not something that just happens. He's a guy who works as hard as any hitter I've seen."
That hard work paid off as much as ever in August, when Hafner's club went 18-10 and began its run toward the .500 mark. Hafner homered in eight of those wins, and the Indians have now won their last five games when he's gone yard.
So what's the key been to all of his success?
"It really just comes down to just seeing a good pitch and putting a good swing on it," said Hafner, who's already set career highs this season for runs (100), home runs (42), RBIs (117) and walks (100). "I just try to work hard at hitting and try to get better all the time, and have a consistent approach."
Hafner has been rather consistent with the bases loaded, as well. He's batting .571 (14-for-25) with the bags full this season, including a Major League record-tying six grand slams. He matched Don Mattingly's mark on Aug. 13 at Jacobs Field with a slam in a 13-0 win against the Royals.
"It's cool to tie a Major League record," Hafner said.
He could very well tie or break a major Indians record this month, too, for those 13 August home runs aligned Hafner for a 50-homer season. That would put him a couple of home runs shy of Jim Thome's club record (52) set during the 2002 season.
But if he has another productive month like August in September, that record could belong to Hafner in a matter of weeks. For the time being, though, Hafner's content with at least 40.
"It's a nice number to get to," he said. "It's a nice personal thing, a nice accomplishment. But I don't get caught up in numbers during the season."
Well, then he'll have a lot of reflecting to do once the season's complete. Maybe Hafner can do so with his first MVP trophy at his side.
Kevin Yanik is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.