When Bradley Zimmer exited last night’s game against the Orioles with a broken hand, fans speculated as to how the outfield might shake out. Would fellow rookie Greg Allen step in to fill the void? Would Tyler Naquin have a chance to redeem himself in the field after last postseason? Would a carousel of Lonnie Chisenhall, Abraham Almonte, and Austin Jackson hold down the fort?
It turns out that we were all wrong. Instead of turning to an established outfielder, Terry Francona stated that he plans to experiment with Jason Kipnis in center.
Jason Kipnis said this is the first time he's discussed playing the outfield with Francona... pic.twitter.com/HWuHf1OGxo— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) September 11, 2017
There is some logic behind it. A healthy Jason Kipnis represents a powerful bat compared to league average at the position. Kipnis also played in the outfield for much of his amateur career, including time at center while at Arizona State. As a professional, Kipnis last roamed the outfield grass in 2009 in Mahoning Valley.
To Kipnis’s credit, he sounds sincerely open to it and happy to do whatever it takes to make the team better. It’s not too surprising, as Kipnis has always been one of the clubhouse leaders. He made a remark to media that if he has to “ride the coattails” of the younger players to a World Series title, he’s more than happy to do it if it is where he best fits the team.
On the coaching side of the issue, there is a little bit more intrigue.
Francona: Kipnis will likely get action in CF when he's cleared to play. Said "we have a good thing going" in the infield.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) September 11, 2017
I elect to withhold all detailed Yandy Diaz comments until this Friday’s Yandy Watch. It should be apparent to any Indians fan that Jose Ramirez is a phenomenal all-around second basemen, and the combination of Diaz and Urshela has held its own in Kipnis’s 2nd-half absence. To me, the best-case scenario is that Kipnis battles the defensive duties to a draw or minor loss while putting up numbers at the plate close to his last few healthy seasons.
There will be plenty of speculation — both on his ability to field the position and the health of his hamstring — until Kipnis charges on a hard liner to the gap. For now, Greg Allen starts tonight’s game in center.