CLEVELAND — A sagging Indians offense was dealt a significant blow prior to Friday’s series opener with Central Division rival Chicago. All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right oblique muscle.
According to general manager Chris Antonetti, Kipnis, who sustained the injury Tuesday against the Angels, could miss 3-5 weeks.
“With soft tissue injuries, that timetable can vary,” Antonetti said. “It could be shorter, it could be longer. Anytime you lose a player of Kip’s caliber, it’s one that we have to overcome.”
“These types of injuries, we have to let that thing settle down and get all the pain out of there before he can start doing physical activity,” manager Terry Francona said. “That’s going to have a timetable of its own. My guess is that once Kip gets back to doing stuff physically, he’ll come quick because it’s Kip. But we have to get that thing healed first.”
Cleveland recalled middle infielder Jose Ramirez from Triple-A Columbus to take Kipnis’ roster spot, but Francona has not decided who will play second in his absence.
“I don’t know that I’ve gotten that far into it,” Francona said. “Up until (Thursday) afternoon, I was really holding out hope that Kipnis was going to be OK. We have Jose Ramirez here. He certainly can handle that. He also can move around a bit, like (Mike) Aviles can, like Elliot (Johnson) can. We’ll probably do some mixing and matching and go day-to-day. Some of who plays second may be determined by who plays other positions, just so we have some balance.”
The 21-year-old Ramirez is a non-drafted free-agent acquisition out of the Dominican Republic in 2009. He was hitting .319 with four home runs and 17 RBIs in 23 games for the Clippers.
The Indians have yet to announce the pitcher that will take the rotation spot of right-hander Carlos Carrasco, who was moved to the bullpen after a series of ineffective outings. The candidates are Triple-A right-handers Trevor Bauer (3-0, 1.40 ERA in four starts) and Josh Tomlin (2-1, 2.06 ERA in five starts).
Antonetti said whoever joined the rotation either Monday or Tuesday would most likely make more than one spot start.
Carrasco, 27, won the job over Bauer, Tomlin and veteran Aaron Harang out of spring training, but went 0-3 with a 6.95 ERA in four starts.
“We gave him the opportunity to start and we weren’t getting the consistency in that spot in the rotation that we were looking for,” Antonetti said. “For the moment we’ve decided to allow Carlos the opportunity to pitch in the bullpen. We think it’s a role in which he’ll thrive. We won’t close any doors (on him starting again), but for right now, we’ll give someone else that opportunity. We’re counting on Carlos to fill an important role in our bullpen.”
Antonetti was asked if the Indians thought about putting Carrasco in the bullpen to start the season, with someone else beginning the year in the rotation.
“A lot of consideration (was given to that),” he said. “I think we gave consideration to a lot of the candidates we had in spring training. For a variety of reasons we gave Carlos that initial opportunity, but unfortunately in a handful of starts, he wasn’t as successful as we envisioned, so now we’ll give that opportunity to someone else.”
Antonetti was asked to give his assessment of MLB’s expanded replay.
“I think it’s an improvement over what we’ve had,” he said. “I don’t think anyone was expecting it to be perfect at the outset. It’s a work in progress. There’s things that we’ll continue to learn. We’ve seen the transfer rule and plays at the plate and trying to figure out exactly what’s clear and convincing evidence — all of those things are things we continue to learn about.
“The system has improved and will continue to improve. On balance, I think we’re in a much better position this year than we were last year, because a lot of the calls that have been overturned already this year, none of them would have been overturned last year.”
- The Indians entered Friday scoring three runs or fewer in 16 of their first 28 games.
- Cleveland is 4-11 on the road.
- The Indians’ first-round draft pick last year, Clint Frazier, hit his first homer in Class A Lake County’s 3-2 10-inning loss to West Michigan on Thursday.