NEW YORK -- Travis Hafner started the 2013 season on fire, hitting .318 with six home runs and 17 RBIs. It certainly looked as if Brian Cashman had pulled off a major coup and the Cleveland Indians had made a huge mistake.
But since then, Hafner's production has gone steadily downhill. In May, he hit .179 with two homers and eight RBIs. In June, he hit .174 with four homers and 10 RBIs. So far in July, he is batting .200 with no home runs and two RBIs.
New York Yankees
All told, Hafner has just 30 hits in 166 at-bats (.181) since April 30, with six home runs and 20 RBIs. His slugging percentage, which was .667 in April, fell to .299 in May, and his OPS has been cut in half, from 1.104 in April to the mid-.500s in May, June and July.
Still, when asked today if he was considering a change at DH, Joe Girardi said, "As of right now, it hasn't crossed my mind."
The obvious concern is that Hafner, 36, has been playing hurt; he has an extensive injury history and was limited to just 66 games in 2012 due to knee and back issues. In mid-May, Hafner had some shoulder soreness that sent him to the MRI tube, but the test came back negative and he missed just a handful of games.
“He says [the shoulder is] fine. He has not complained about it," Girardi said. "I know for him, since we’ve had him, it’s always a maintenance program. He was complaining about it when he was hurt and he has not complained about it."
Still, something has changed drastically with Hafner between April and now, something that the manager has been unable to identify.
“It’s hard to put your finger on exactly why he’s struggling, but he is," Girardi said. "We need him to hit. We need this guy to hit, so we’re doing everything we can to get him going.”
Hafner is back in the cleanup spot tonight against James Shields, against whom he has four hits in 21 career at-bats (.190).
-- Rumors that Derek Jeter would be activated for tonight's game against the Royals turned out to be unfounded. Jeter has the night off but will play tomorrow night for AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and Girardi repeated the Yankees' position that they need to see Jeter play at least two back-to-back games in the field before even considering to reinstate him. Still, Girardi refuses to rule out the possibility that Jeter could return to the Yankees before the All-Star break begins after Sunday afternoon's game with the Twins.
"The real thing is to make sure that he’s ready, because you don’t want him to end up pulling something because he’s hurt," Girardi said. "We brought (Eduardo Nunez) here maybe a little before we expected to bring him because of an injury, so anything is possible. We want to make sure his legs are in shape; that he doesn’t tweak a hammy or tweak a calf or something just because he hasn’t played a lot. We’re expecting him to play.”
And asked how long he could wait before deciding whether to activate Jeter, Girardi said, "Sunday."
-- CC Sabathia goes for win No. 201 tonight, facing a team he has beaten 18 times in 28 decisions throughout his career, with a 3.26 ERA. CC beat the Royals in Kansas City on May 4, but hasn't faced them at Yankee Stadium since July 22, 2010, when he earned the win in a 10-4 Yankees victory, allowing three earned runs and 11 hits in 6 1/3 innings.
--Royals starter James Shields always had problems with the Yankees as a Tampa Bay Ray, and his career record against them is 7-15 with a 4.46 ERA. He pitched well against the Yankees in his first start as a member of the Royals, but took the loss in a 3-2 Yankees win at Kauffman Stadium on May 11. Yankee Stadium has been especially cruel to Shields; he is 2-9 with a 5.31 ERA in 13 career starts in the Bronx. Robinson Cano loves hitting against him. He is 31-for-79 lifetime (.392) against Shields with four home runs and 12 RBIs.