CLEVELAND: Jason Kipnis was able to flip a slow start at the beginning of last season into a hot stretch that earned him his first All-Star nod.
This season, another relatively slow start was further complicated by an oblique injury at the end of April that cost the Indians second baseman a month of playing time — as well as his form at the plate.
However, since returning to the Tribe’s lineup, Kipnis struggled to flip the switch offensively until last week. He entered Saturday’s game batting just .249 with 13 doubles, three homers and 22 RBI in 59 games. Yet, Indians manager Terry Francona has more pressing concerns than whether — or when — Kipnis’ offense comes around.
“It’s different with everybody,” Francona said. “Sometimes you see a guy come back [from an injury] and get hot right away. Sometimes it takes guys awhile and I think Kip’s in that boat. There’s been some inconsistencies where he’s fighting to feel like he wants to feel and missing time doesn’t help that.
“Regardless of what his batting average is, he’s one of our mainstays and he competes. That’s why I don’t really look at Kip’s numbers very much because he’s gonna play and he’ll help us win.”
Kipnis has started to do that, as he appears to have begun the climb out of his lengthy first-half funk. Over the last week and a half, Kipnis is batting at a .289 clip — including five extra-base hits.
“When you see Kip hit the ball to center and left center with authority, that’s when he’s locked in,” Francona said. “When he’s back-spinning that ball off the left center field wall and hitting a ball to deep center field, that’s when he’s fine. That’s what shows that he’s on balance and he’s keeping the head of the bat though the zone. He did that a couple times on the [recent] road trip.”
Kipnis has done it through the first two games of this 10-game homestand, as well. On Friday night, he was just one of two Tribe hitters to record two hits against Royals rookie pitcher Yordano Ventura.
On Saturday, Kipnis had two hits in first three at-bats, including an RBI double off the left center-field wall as part of the Indians’ three-run third inning.
Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.