CLEVELAND -- Indians manager Manny Acta was not about to take the bait. When asked if he liked second baseman Jason Kipnis in the second spot of Cleveland's lineup, Acta cracked a smile.
"I like Kipnis in every spot," Acta said. "I just think he's going to be a very good player. I think he can hit."
History has shown that Kipnis is an especially sound hitter as the No. 2 man in the Tribe's batting order. Granted, that history consists of 38 only career games after Sunday's 4-0 victory over the Angels, but the young second baseman has performed well when given the chance to occupy the second slot.
Dating back to last season, when Kipnis received his first taste of the big leagues, the 25-year-old has hit .288 (44-for-153) with seven home runs, nine doubles, two triples, 23 RBIs and 29 runs scored as the Indians' second hitter. Acta said the left-handed-hitting Kipnis has a style that fits well behind the leadoff man.
"He's got pretty good power for a second baseman and a guy his size," Acta said. "He can run. He can bunt. So I think he's going to be a very good player. It's just that there's a process with these guys. You don't want to put too much pressure on them right away. Hitting second, he fits good there because he's got some juice.
"He can shoot a ball into the hole or pop a ball out if the leadoff hitter gets on. Or, if the pitcher or catcher are paying too much attention to [a baserunner] and are afraid that the guy's going to run, he'll probably see some fastballs. He can juice some balls all over the field."
Kipnis is hitting .400 (12-for-30) over his last eight games, after going 1-for-4 on Sunday. Prior to that strong stretch, Kipnis opened the year with a .167 (8-for-48) mark over his first 12 games for the Indians. On Sunday, he was in the second spot of the lineup for the third consecutive game.
"I like him ninth, too," Acta reiterated. "And eighth. And Seventh. I like him everywhere."
Acta preaches patience to Duncan
CLEVELAND -- The patience and power displayed by Shelley Duncan early this season has seemingly disappeared of late, leading to a rough slump for the Indians outfielder. Indians manager Manny Acta indicated that Duncan has been chasing pitches out of the strike zone.
"Just a week or so ago, he was laying off some of those pitches," Acta said. "That is the key for him. He was walking a lot. The last few games, he has gotten a little bit over-aggressive and chasing pitches out of the zone and expanding."
After going 0-for-3 with an RBI on Sunday against the Angels, Duncan is hitting .147 (5-for-34) with a .231 on-base percentage in his last 10 games. During that rough patch, the left fielder amassed 16 strikeouts compared to only three walks with no home runs.
In his first nine games of the season, Duncan hit .333 (9-for-27) with a .514 on-base percentage, which was largely the result of 10 walks drawn in that span. In that early nine-game stretch, the outfielder launched two home runs and struck out six times.
Since April 17, when the Indians signed veteran outfielder Johnny Damon, Duncan has seen his season average and on-base percentage decline to .241 and .375, respectively. Damon is currently training at the team's site in Arizona and could possibly join Cleveland's big league roster at some point within the next two weeks.
When Damon does join the Tribe, he would likely garner most of his playing time in left field.
As for Duncan, Acta hopes to see him return to his early-season approach.
"Hey, if they don't pitch to you, just walk," Acta said. "That's what he was doing good earlier."
Choo encouraged after testing leg
CLEVELAND -- Indians right fielder Shin-Soo Choo tested his sore left hamstring with some running drills in the outfield on Sunday morning at Progressive Field. Choo came away from the workout encouraged by how he felt.
"It was better than two days ago," Choo said.
Choo was out of the lineup for Sunday's game against the Angels, marking the fifth game in a row the right fielder has missed. He was hopeful that he would be able to return to Cleveland's lineup on Tuesday, when the team begins a three-game road series against the White Sox.
"I think so, but who knows?" said Choo, standing at his locker in the clubhouse. "I don't like to stay in here and not play."
On Monday, when the Indians have a scheduled off-day, Choo said he will still head to the ballpark for treatment. Beyond the running drills, Choo also played catch on the field and hit in the batting cage on Sunday morning.
Choo left last Tuesday's game against the Royals in the eighth inning after the soreness he felt prior to the contest became more painful. The Indians have described the injury as a mild strain and the team's medical staff expressed that a stint on the disabled list seemed unlikely.
Through 15 games this season, Choo has hit .237 with five doubles and nine RBIs for the Indians.
Indians center fielder Grady Sizemore, who is on the 60-day disabled list while rehabbing from lower back surgery, added swinging a bat to his program on Saturday. He is currently working through a walk-jog program that includes some light agility drills. Sizemore has not run the bases yet. He is eligible to be activated on June 3 at the earliest.
"It's been encouraging," said head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff, who noted that Sizemore has been rehabbing five to six hours per day. "There are a lot of things to work through still, but he's really attacking it."
Indians outfield prospect LeVon Washington is scheduled to undergo right hip surgery on Monday and expected to miss two to four months. The operation will be performed by Dr. Marc Philippon at The Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colo. Washington (a second-round pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft) was hitting .440 (11-for-25) with eight runs scored through six games with Class A Lake County.
With two walks on Sunday, Cleveland reached 100 walks (101) in its first 20 games of a season for only the fifth time in franchise history. The club also accomplished that feat in 1955 (113), '51 (107), '97 (103) and '25 (100).
The Indians have gone without a home run in their last 11 contests. It marks the longest power outage for the club since the Tribe went 14 games without a blast from April 10-27, 1983. The current homerless streak covered 101 innings and 365 at-bats, dating back to the fifth inning against the Mariners on April 17.
Quote to note
"We were high on him when he first came up two years ago. But everything was depending on his secondary stuff. That slider has really come around. At the end of last season he showed that and in Spring Training. That's been the difference-maker for him -- that slider."
--Indians manager Manny Acta, on starter Jeanmar Gomez