Sixteen final thoughts after the Royals swept the two-game series at Kauffman Stadium.
1. Nick Swisher was scheduled to complete his rehab assignment Wednesday night in Akron, which left me contemplating the meaning of “We’ll go from there.”
2. Indians manager Terry Francona said Swisher would fly to Boston Thursday morning to rejoin the Indians after a stint on the 15-day disabled list with a hyperextended left knee and “we’ll go from there.” Asked if Swisher would be activated Thursday, Francona repeated, “We’ll go from there.”
3. Was his refusal to say more a hint that they might be ready to move Jason Giambi into the Tribe coaching ranks? Will Giambi come up with some kind of back injury before Thursday afternoon?
4. He’s hitting .128. On Wednesday, the Royals employed the shift to perfection against him, moving third baseman Mike Moustakas in between second and first. Giambi grounded out 5-3 his first three times up and fouled out to first in the ninth inning.
5. Can the Indians afford to keep a 43-year-old designated hitter on the roster when they have to find a way to play Lonnie Chisenhall every day? (Chisenhall is batting .393, but is still 16 plate appearances away from qualifying for the batting title race.) Swisher could platoon with David Murphy in right field, but Murphy is the Indians’ best hitter with runners in scoring position.
6. Francona LOVES Giambi and capital letters don’t do that justice. There’s no question how big a part Giambi played in the clubhouse in the Indians’ run to a wild-card playoff berth last season. But now he seems to be a luxury the Indians can’t afford. This could be a conversation General Manager Chris Antonetti has broached before with Francona. But now the Indians are getting healthy and it may force the issue.
7. The Indians could send down a reliever – Nick Hagadone? Josh Outman? – but both are left-handers and will be needed against the Red Sox. And Francona LOVES a big bullpen. You would presume catcher George Kottaras is going back to Triple-A, but Carlos Santana is prone to getting hit by foul balls when he catches and he just came back from the second concussion of his career on June 6.
8. Santana needs to play first and third base as he tries to snap out of his season-long hitting funk (.178 average). Chisenhall needs to split time between third base, first base and DH. Swisher’s four-year, $56 million contract means he has to play and he’ll surely volunteer to go to right field. Francona said the first baseman did before he landed on the DL. But Murphy, while not a home-run hitter (five homers, 15 doubles, 37 RBI) is batting .284.
9. Swisher’s career average is .253, but he has 234 homers in the majors. If Santana’s not going to hit home runs (he has seven), the Indians need Swisher’s power.
10. The easiest thing the Indians have to decide when they get to Boston is where Zach McAllister, ready to come off the DL with a low back strain, will fit into the rotation. T.J. House, his replacement from Triple-A, can next pitch Saturday, McAllister Sunday.
11. The Tigers may be faltering in the AL Central, but Kansas City (33-32) seems to be on the rise and not just because the Royals have won four in a row. They have more speed and better defense than the Indians. There was praise coming from the Tribe clubhouse after this series.
12. “They have pitching, a great bullpen, some guys who can really swing the bat,” Giambi said. “I think they’re a really good team,” Francona said. “They’re a very difficult team to play. They have speed, pitching, bullpen, you know the power’s coming. We have a lot of respect for how good they are.”
13. Chisenhall seems to be having the breakout season Kipnis had a year ago and Kipnis is squarely in his corner. “It’s fun to watch. As a teammate you are happy for him, excited for him and how it is helping the team,” Kipnis said. “A lot of the pitches when you’re in a slump look like they are on the black and on the corners. When you’re in a hot streak they look like they are over the middle of the plate. You are always attacking the right pitches. You’re not missing. He’s swinging at the right pitches and not missing.”
14. Chisenhall and Kipnis were caught dancing on the field Monday night in Arlington, Texas, while the home plate umpire was being attended to after being hit by a foul ball. In the video clip on the Internet, it appears Chisenhall sucked Kipnis into it. “Naw, I actually sucked him in. I’m the one who’s usually doing it,” Kipnis said. “The good thing was the camera wasn’t rolling the first 30 seconds before that when I was going. They caught just him. He’s embarrassed.”
15. A quote from Francona to enjoy – which may have no translation – came when he was discussing the five-game suspension Orioles third baseman Manny Machado received for intentionally throwing his bat after A’s pitcher Fernando Abad threw back-to-back high-and-tight pitches to him Sunday in Oakland. Both benches cleared and both were ejected.
16. Asked if he was surprised he doesn’t see that more from hitters, Francona said, “Not with the bat.” Asked if that was verboten, Francona said, “I’m not German. Actually I think I am a little bit.”