Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been shut down for at least two weeks due to a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, as the team announced recently, and Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes that Kipnis is slated to receive a second opinion on his injury at the end of next week. As Hoynes noted in an earlier column, Kipnis isn’t likely to be ready for the season opener, which has the team mulling possible alternatives at second base.
Manager Terry Francona acknowledged that the team could move Jose Ramirez from third base to second base while Kipnis is absent, playing Giovanny Urshela in Ramirez’s place at the hot corner. Ramirez, currently tabbed as Cleveland’s everyday third baseman on the heels of a breakout 2016 campaign, indicated that he’d be perfectly comfortable playing second base. “I’ll play anywhere,” the switch-hitting 24-year-old tells Hoynes.
Alternatively, any of the three options that’re currently vying for the utility infield job in Cleveland could serve as a short-term bridge. That includes young Erik Gonzalez and non-roster invitees Michael Martinez and Ronny Rodriguez. The 25-year-old Gonzalez, already on the 40-man roster, posted a strong .296/.329/.450 batting line in Triple-A last season, making him a seemingly appealing candidate if the team’s need is only short-term in nature.
Adding a player from outside the organization, Francona notes, isn’t necessary if Kipnis isn’t going to be sidelined more than a week or so to open the season. Hoynes notes that for the time being, the team’s top priority is to determine exactly how long the injury will keep Kipnis sidelined. Kipnis and Francona indicated that if this were midseason, Kipnis could potentially play through the injury, though the concern stems from the fact that Kipnis began feeling some discomfort even in non-baseball activities.
Renowned surgeon Dr. Keith Meister will be in camp next Thursday or Friday, according to Hoynes, at which point he’ll examine both Kipnis and right-hander Cody Anderson, who has previously been diagnosed with a strained ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.
If it’s deemed that the Indians do need to go outside the organization to add some infield depth, veteran Kelly Johnson remains unsigned this winter. Alternatively, Cleveland could look to any number of players that are out of minor league options and appear to be long shots to make their current organization’s roster at the end of Spring Training. Some of those players may become available on waivers later this month as well.