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Did The Tribe Win Last Night? | July 5, 2020

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Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 22

Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 22

| On 04, Mar 2020

Baseball takes little time off in between seasons, so neither can we. Follow along at Did the Tribe Win Last Night as we count down to March 26, when the Cleveland Indians host the Detroit Tigers for game one of the 2020 season. – BT

Countdown to Opening Day – 22 days

The Indians begin life without Jason Kipnis this spring as the long-time Clevelander is now a member of the Chicago Cubs’ farm system.

Kipnis spent nine years in an Indians uniform from 2011 through the 2019 season, twice representing the team on the American League All-Star team in 2013 and 2015. Injuries cut into his production at times during that span, and his ability to hit for high average and to be a threat on the bases had steadily dwindled as his career progressed. A month away from his 33rd birthday, the Indians’ second round pick in the 2009 draft returns home to Illinois where he will look to make the roster of his hometown Cubs as a non-roster invite in the team’s camp in Mesa, Arizona.

Kipnis was a casualty in Cleveland following a steady but so-so ninth season in the Majors, but one that had him in line for a significant paycheck for 2020. Entering the final year of his six-year, $52.5 million contract signed at the start of the 2014 season, Kipnis was scheduled to earn $16.5 million from the financially-strapped Indians after a season that saw him slash .245/.304/.410 in 121 games with 23 doubles, one triple, 17 homers, and 65 RBI while making $14.7 million.

The Indians, well aware that his recent production was far below that which should be attached to his pending payout for the coming year, opted to cut ties with him, declining his team option and buying him out for $2.5 million. The move made all the more sense after watching Kipnis sit available in free agency until February 18, when he signed his one-year tender with the Cubs for $1 million (plus incentives), if he makes the big league squad.

Kipnis’s time in the Indians organization dated back to 2009, when he was the team’s second round draft pick out of Arizona State University, and his time on the Indians’ 25-man went back to July 22, 2011, when he made his Major League debut. He was originally a fourth round pick by the San Diego Padres in 2008, but remained in school.

Kipnis – Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

His gritty style of play earned him the nickname “Dirtbag” from manager Manny Acta and made him a fan favorite as his early years on the big league diamond provided plenty of promise. After earning a mid-year call-up in 2011 (and notching his first career hit in walk-off fashion), he had a good offensive showing in 2012 (.257/.335/.379 with 14 homers and 76 RBI) and improved upon all those numbers in three fewer games in 2013, hitting .284 with a .366 on-base percentage and a .452 slugging mark with 36 doubles, 17 homers, and 84 RBI while stealing 30 bases for the second straight season. That year, he made his first trip to the All-Star Game, representing the AL at Citi Field and adding to the scoring in his lone at bat of the game in the eighth inning, driving in a run with a ground-rule double off of Craig Kimbrel.

An oblique injury early in 2014 tapped his developing power and his overall production at the plate (he hit .240 with just six home runs). The long ball remained largely absent again in 2015 (just nine for the year), but he again represented the AL All-Stars at Great American Ball Park, striking out in his only plate appearance of the game. He finished the year with career bests in batting average (.303), on-base percentage (.372), hits (171), and doubles (43), and posted a 20-game hitting streak during the season.

Kipnis made up for the missing power numbers in 2016 as he served as a valuable piece to the club’s yearlong success and playoff berth. He played in a career-high 156 games, hitting .275 with a .343 OBP and .469 slugging mark with 41 doubles, four triples, 23 homers, and 82 RBI. His strikeouts were up (a career-high), but he drew his share of walks and was generally a model of consistency for manager Terry Francona at second base.

The decline began in the weeks before he turned 30 in 2017. He missed the start of the season with right shoulder inflammation and returned to the disabled list two more times in the middle of the campaign with right hamstring strains. He appeared in just 90 games with generally underwhelming numbers and the persistent injury issues and mediocre production forced the team to alter its lineup construction drastically. He logged playing time in center field for the first time in the Majors as Francona restructured his infield setup.

Kipnis stayed healthy in 2018, but his offensive deficiencies continued and 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. He hit a career-low .230 in 147 games with 28 doubles, 18 homers, and 75 RBI.

Despite the inconsistent year at the plate in 2018 and losing his job in the infield, he was still named the team’s starting second baseman for 2019. He contributed some nice numbers overall in some categories (23 doubles, 17 homers, and 65 RBI in 121 games) last season after missing the start of the schedule with a calf strain.

Kipnis, who had seen his share of criticisms in the closing years of his Cleveland career, will start anew in Chicago, hoping to remain a big leaguer with the Cubs instead of working regularly at the minor league level for the first time in almost a decade. Given the roster construction in Chicago and an overall lack of spending in the winter, Kipnis has a fair shake at playing in front of his hometown crowd once again.

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: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

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

Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 99 (Daniel Robertson)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 90 (Adam Cimber)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 88 (Phil Maton)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 77 (Jack Armstrong)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 76 (Tom Magrann)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 75 (Mike Walker)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 73 (Ricardo Rincon)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 72 (Jason Giambi)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 71 (Johnny Hodapp)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 70 (James Karinchak, George Kontos)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 69 (Luis Medina)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 68 (Jefry Rodriguez, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 67 (Aaron Civale, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 66 (Yasiel Puig, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 65 (Zach Plesac, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 64 (Tom Kramer, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 63 (Josh Smith, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 62 (Nick Wittgren, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 61 (Dan Otero, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 60 (Jhonny Peralta, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 59 (Carlos Carrasco)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 58 (Neil Ramirez, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 57 (Shane Bieber)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 56 (Cody Anderson)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 55 (Roberto Perez)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 54 (Hunter Wood)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 53 (Logan Allen)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 52 (Mike Clevinger)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 51 (numerous)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 50 (James Hoyt, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 49 (Tyler Olson, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 48 (Emmanuel Clase, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 47 (Trevor Bauer)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 46 (Jon Edwards, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 45 (Adam Plutko)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 44 (Nick Goody, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 43 (Josh Tomlin, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 42 (Mike Jackson, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 41 (Carlos Santana, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 40 (Bobby Bradley, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 39 (Oliver Perez, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 38 (Eric Haase, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 37 (Cody Allen, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 36 (Tyler Clippard, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 35 (Oscar Mercado, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 34 (A.J. Cole, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 33 (Brad Hand, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 32 (Franmil Reyes, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 31 (Danny Salazar, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 30 (Tyler Naquin, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 29 (Andre Thornton)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 28 (Corey Kluber)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 27 (Kevin Plawecki, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 26 (Max Moroff, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 25 (Jim Thome)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 24 (Carlos Gonzalez, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 23 (Michael Brantley, others)

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