Jason Kipnis is already returning to the Tribe’s 25-man roster, but there’s more promising news coming out of Cleveland as superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor gets set to begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Columbus, per MLB.com’s Mandy Bell (via Twitter). As MLBTR readers no doubt remember, Lindor first hit the injured list with a calf strain before compounding that injury with a high left ankle sprain, depriving the game of one of its brightest young stars so far in 2019.
The AL Central’s reigning champs (three years running) have more-or-less held serve thus this season without their MVP candidate, though they’re not exactly tearing the cover off the ball at 3.47 runs per game. Their 8-7 record after today’s loss to Kansas City maintains a second place stalemate with Detroit, who both trail division-leading Minnesota (8-4).
Credit the Indians for not panicking despite missing their middle infield to start the year. Granted, such patience was afforded them because they preside over what’s been the worst division in baseball the last few seasons. And though their 2019 record versus their familiar foes so far (4-7) might suggest a looming divisional struggle, most do not portend the sort of white-knuckle competition facing other playoff hopefuls throughout the majors. And while the Royals and White Sox are more-or-less counted out already, Detroit has played better than expected despite injuries to their pitching staff, while the Twins remain a difficult team to project given their high volume of castoffs (C.J. Cron, Blake Parker) and reclamation projects (Jonathan Schoop, Michael Pineda, Martin Perez), as well as both young stars looking to bloom (Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, Jose Berrios) and aging stars staving off decline (Nelson Cruz).
Still, the Indians’ ragtag lineup held things together through the first few weeks and now look to hit the ground running with the additions of veterans Carlos Gonzalez and Jason Kipnis this week. Stand-in Brad Miller is no longer with the club after his DFA earlier today, while Lindor’s primary understudy Eric Stamets survived the first round of cuts despite carrying a speaks-for-itself .059/.154/.088 line through 40 plate appearances. Given Lindor’s career .288/.350/.487 and 5.7 average annual fWAR, the Indians no doubt eagerly anticipate his return.