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Indians notebook: Terry Francona doesn’t think struggling Jason Kipnis is battling fatigue

CLEVELAND: Jason Kipnis was 0-for-11 with six strikeouts in the three games preceding Thursday night’s game against the Houston Astros.

“He might be a little tired,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “He skipped batting practice yesterday with my blessing.”

Kipnis seemed to hit a wall in the second half of the 2012 season, but Francona doesn’t think it’s happening again.

“I think that wall is going to be knocked down pretty soon,” Francona said.

Kipnis delivered an RBI single in the first inning Thursday night. Maybe that’s what Francona was talking about.

NEW PLAN — Justin Masterson (strained oblique) might return to the Tribe staff without even throwing a simulated game.

“We want to see how his bullpen goes [today],” Francona said. “He’s only been down for 16 days, and he logged a lot of innings before that. He’ll throw his bullpen, and we’ll go from there.”

Asked if Masterson still felt twinges of pain, Francona said: “If he is, he’s not telling us. With that kind of injury, you want to be pain free when you go out there.”

CROWE RETURNS — Trevor Crowe surfaced with the Astros this year after being signed as a free agent in November.

The Tribe picked Crowe in the first round of the 2005 draft, but almost from the beginning, he seemed to get the cold shoulder from the Indians, who released him in June 2012. The Los Angeles Angels signed him for the rest of the season, then let him go.

He began this season with the Astros but was sent to Triple-A after batting .200 for two months. Crowe was recalled in September and is batting .286 for the month. Thursday night, he hit in the third spot in the lineup.

— Sheldon Ocker


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