Kipnis begins preparation for OF move
CLEVELAND — Jason Kipnis has been in this position before. That’s the positive.
That doesn’t mean he’s happy about it.
Kipnis took fly balls in center field on Tuesday as he transitioned from playing second base after the Indians acquired third baseman Josh Donaldson in a trade last week from the Toronto Blue Jays.
Donaldson’s arrival — he’s currently on the disabled list with a calf injury — has caused an infield shift. Jose Ramirez is moving from third to second, dispatching Kipnis into the outfield. The former All-Star made a similar move last September, but those were different circumstances as Kipnis was coming off the disabled list and the Indians were thin in the outfield because of injuries.
This time, Kipnis is being moved to accommodate a star who may help the Indians reach the World Series. And Kipnis has struggled all season.
“I’m not going to make it about me this year,” Kipnis said before starting Tuesday’s game against Kansas City at second. “I understand what he can bring to the table and I’m hoping he does it. I’m excited for this team and this organization. I understand where they’re coming from and I understand that I probably put us in this situation with not having the year I’m capable of having.
“It’s a little bit of cause and effect. But I’ve got a job to do. I show up every day and work hard and if that means switching positions, I’m switching positions. I look forward to most challenges. I’m excited to get going.”
Donaldson worked out with the Indians after playing one game for Triple-A Columbus. Donaldson was placed on the disabled list Monday so he could rehab in the minors, and he hit a grand slam in the Clippers’ final game.
Donaldson will resume his rehab stint with Double-A Akron. The 2015 AL MVP is eligible to be activated on Sept. 11.
Kipnis could get some playing time in center before Donaldson is ready. He played 11 of Cleveland’s final 12 regular-season games there last year and started all five playoff games in the outfield.
“I actually have some legs under me,” said Kipnis, who is batting .226 with 14 homers and 57 RBIs. “Having some kind of starting point to fall back on now is nice. We’re not just starting from eight years scratch or something like that. Do I love it? No. But I don’t have to love it. That’s the part. I’ve got a job to do. It’s OK as long as all of our goals are the same and that’s to win a World Series for this city and this organization, then you’re not really going to hear too many problems from me.”
But unlike last year, Kipnis has to earn any playing time. Greg Allen has played in 70 games, and he’s better defensively than Kipnis.
Indians manager Terry Francona explained to Kipnis that nothing will be given to him.
“We feel like we’re a better team when Kip’s playing well,” Francona said. “I told him, ‘You have to be our best option out there. And I told Greg the same thing.’ It’s a little unsettling. It’s a guy — I’ve known Kip for six years now. He’s been a guy that we’ve depended on. Now, all of a sudden you’re having a conversation with him that’s probably not exactly what he wants to hear, so it’s not the funnest thing in the world.
“But I think the best way to start those is by being honest.”