CLEVELAND -- Jason Kipnis has had plenty thrown at him since returning to the Cleveland Indians’ lineup from his second stint on the disabled list in mid-September.
From a change to his college position of center field after spending his Indians career at second base to acclimating himself to the speed of the game and finding a rhythm at the plate, Kipnis has had a lot to process. And as Kipnis continues to learn the center field position, he is beginning to settle in at the plate.
Kipnis enters the final weekend of the regular season having reached base in six straight games with at least one hit in five of those contests, including a two-run home run in Thursday’s 5-2 win over the Minnesota Twins at Progressive Field, the Indians’ 100th victory of the season.
“Oh, absolutely,” Kipnis said when asked if his hitting has been a calming influence. “When you’ve got a bunch of things on your plate, when you’re trying to get your hamstring healthy, when you’re trying to learn a new position and find your swing, it’s nice to at least, more or less, be able to check one of them off.
“Not that I’m going to be hot going into the playoffs, but just that I’m able to be where I want to be and able to compete, to not be in a funk or to be overthinking at the plate, to be able to just go out and have my swing where I want it to be, it’s nice to be able to add depth to this lineup, to contribute where I can.”
The Indians struggled to string together hits and could not push across a run against Twins starter Ervin Santana, but when he exited the game after five innings, the two-time defending American League Central Division champions went to work in front of the home fans.
With shortstop Francisco Lindor in scoring position thanks to a lead-off double, Kipnis turned on a 2-1 pitch and rocketed the ball into the seats in right field for a two-run home run. The 366-foot blast was Kipnis’ 12th of the season and gave the Indians a 2-0 lead over the Twins, an advantage they never relinquished.
“I think the more at-bats he gets, the closer he gets to being himself,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “He’s taking more good swings. Being in the outfield, every time he goes out there, I think his confidence is going to grow.”
Although Kipnis struggled at the plate for much of the season, hitting just .232 overall with 76 hits in 328 at-bats, over his last 25 at-bats, he has seven hits, a .280 batting average, with two runs scored, two doubles, one home run and five RBI.
“It’s fun and it’s helpful,” Lindor said of Kipnis. “It’s definitely going to give us a lot more depth having him last year do what he’s been doing for a long time, and missing him a little bit this season. Now, he’s back with us.
“It’s fun watching the process. He’s going to help us a lot. It’s a little different seeing him in the outfield, but on the other side, we all believe in him. We all know what he’s capable of doing, and I’m looking forward to seeing him in the next three days and in the playoffs.”
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