After reeling off eighteen-straight wins — soon to be 19– the Indians now possess the best record in the American League. But Cleveland is still working through some injury-related roster issues as the postseason approaches.
In particular, with Bradley Zimmer joining Michael Brantley on the DL, the club is experimenting with utilizing longtime second baseman Jason Kipnis on the outfield grass, as MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis is nearing his own return from a hamstring injury, but Jose Ramirez now stands in his way at second with Giovanny Urshela settling in at third. While Urshela doesn’t offer much with the bat, he is regarded as a quality defender at the hot corner.
Given the team’s current needs, then, Kipnis can perhaps be of greater function on the grass. And he won’t exactly be hidden as he attempts the move: manager Terry Francona noted that Kipnis will receive a look in center field. Though the skipper also made clear that the team isn’t exactly committed to the move, and isn’t necessarily giving up on a return from Zimmer, it does seem the experiment will be given some run. It’s worth bearing in mind that Kipnis did features as an outfielder in college (and briefly as a professional), so he does have some background to draw from.
Kipnis says he’s happy to contribute any way he can at this juncture. It has been a tough season for him thus far. In between injuries, he carries a .228/.285/.409 batting line with 11 home runs. Defensive metrics have also soured on Kipnis’s glove, which had rated as a positive over the prior two seasons. If the move sticks in the short term, it’ll be interesting to see if it has any impact on Cleveland’s offseason plans. Kipnis is under contract through at least 2019 for a guaranteed $30.5MM, so he’ll return in some capacity barring a surprising trade.
In other news, also covered by Bastian, lefty relief star Andrew Miller seems to be on the mend from his recent knee problems. A plan for his return to the major-league hill has yet to be nailed down, but it seems that could happen in relatively short order so long as Miller responds well to a live bullpen session that took place today. With the division already all but secured, the Indians will surely be in no rush to get Miller back. Rather, the overarching concern will be ensuring that he’s at full speed for the postseason.