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Did The Tribe Win Last Night? | July 19, 2019

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Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 22 – Jason Kipnis

Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 22 – Jason Kipnis

| On 06, Mar 2019

Major League Baseball is just over three weeks away from the start of the 2019 season. All 30 teams will take the field on March 28 this year, the game’s earliest start ever (excluding international openers). Follow along with Did The Tribe Win Last Night as we count down the days until Opening Day 2019. – BT

Countdown to Opening Day – 22 days

After a little bit of speculation, Jason Kipnis and his number 22 will return to second base for the Cleveland Indians in 2019.

Another inconsistent year at the plate from Kipnis in 2018 put his positional placement on the field in limbo for the coming year, but manager Terry Francona cleared up any uncertainty early in spring camp by naming his eight-year veteran the starting second baseman for the Tribe. While the 31-year-old contributed some nice numbers overall in some categories (28 doubles, 18 homers, and 75 RBI in 147 games while cutting back on his strikeout rate), he did not get on base at the pace that some would have hoped. He hit just .230 with a .315 on-base percentage, digging a big hole to climb out of after starting out the season with a rough first couple of months at the plate. Inconsistencies hitting near the top of the lineup (.181 average out of the two-hole) led to him being dropped further in the lineup. He had some better success hitting sixth, seventh, and eighth, and he provided good contributions when hitting with men on (.270) and with men in scoring position (.292), but his overall numbers hardly seemed to fit well with his $13.7 million paycheck.

Now one of the elder statesmen of the roster, Kipnis’s time in the organization dates back to 2009, when he was a second round draft pick out of Arizona State University, and his time on the Indians’ 25-man goes back to July 22, 2011, when he made his Major League debut. Now, Kipnis will be counted on as a leader of young men with the hopes that he can provide something closer to his career .263/.337/.417 slash over 1,000 career games in the Majors.

Kipnis is a two-time All-Star, making the Midsummer Classic in 2013 and 2015, but recent years have left him as a man without a position. He was limited to 90 games in 2017 while dealing with injuries, and the team moved away from him at second base late in the season while in need of outfield help, throwing him back to a position that he had not played regularly since moving to second base ahead of the 2010 minor league slate. While he stayed healthy in 2018, his offensive deficiencies led the club to pick up Josh Donaldson prior to the waivers deadline in August, plugging the former MVP into the third base position ahead of the playoffs while shifting two-time All-Star starting third baseman Jose Ramirez off of the hot corner to his more comfortable second base spot. Kipnis again found himself in center field, helping the club deal with the injuries suffered there to Bradley Zimmer, Leonys Martin, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Tyler Naquin.

Kipnis – Ron Schwane/Getty Images

The Indians could have considered Kipnis for an outfield spot this spring, with Chisenhall, Michael Brantley, Melky Cabrera, Rajai Davis, and Brandon Guyer all gone from the roster in the fall. Yandy Diaz had been waiting for a chance at third base, and Ramirez could have remained at second with Kipnis relocated to the grass. Instead, Diaz was shipped to Tampa in the trade that sent Edwin Encarnacion to Seattle and brought Carlos Santana and Jake Bauers to Cleveland. While adding a new bat for second or third base could have been an option for the Tribe in the offseason, they elected to save money (read: slash budget) and will move forward with a thin and heavily criticized outfield mix while banking on Kipnis to play closer to his salary figures in an otherwise familiar looking infield arrangement.

As it stands, this could be the final year for Kipnis in Cleveland, as his steadily increasing contract is due to pay him $14.7 million in 2019. The Indians hold a team option on his deal for the 2020 season – they can elect to pay him $16.5 million or cut ties with him via a $2.5 million buyout. With the cost-conscious mentality the Indians have returned to this winter and with pending pay days still coming for some of the young stars on the roster, it is hard to imagine a scenario in which Kipnis is back at second in Goodyear next spring – unless it is as a visiting ball player.

Kipnis was slowed early in this year’s camp with left hip flexor tightness, but he has returned to action this past week. He has made the most of the playing time thus far, getting five hits in seven trips to the plate, hitting two doubles and scoring a pair of runs.

Other notable 22s in Tribe history (51 players in total): Wes Ferrell (the first in 1929); Roy Weatherly (1938-42), Jim Bagby (1944-45), Mike Garcia (1948), Sam Jones (1951-52), Al Luplow (1963-65), Jim Bibby (1975-77), Ted Cox (1978-79), Bert Blyleven (1981), Mike Fischlin (1981-85), Glenallen Hill (1993), Candy Maldonado (1990-94), Brian Giles (1996-98), Mark Langston (1999), Juan Gonzalez (2001).

Photo: Ed Zurga/Getty Images

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Miss out on our other Countdown pieces? Check out more Indians history below.

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Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 61 – Dan Otero
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Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 59 – Carlos Carrasco
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 58 – Neil Ramirez
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 57 – Shane Bieber
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 56 – Cody Anderson
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 55 – Roberto Perez
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 54
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 53
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 52 – Mike Clevinger
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 51
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Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 49 – Tyler Olson
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 48
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 47 – Trevor Bauer
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 46 – Jon Edwards
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 45 – Adam Plutko
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 44 – Nick Goody
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 43
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 42
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 41 – Carlos Santana
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 40
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 39 – Oliver Perez
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 38 – Eric Haase
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 37
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 36
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 35 – Ben Taylor
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 34
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 33 – Brad Hand
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 32
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 31 – Danny Salazar
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 30 – Tyler Naquin
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 29
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 28 – Corey Kluber
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 27
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 26
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 25
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 24
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 23

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