08/10/11 11:17 PM ET
Kipnis penning quite the rookie campaign
Indians second baseman grinds out five hits, four runs vs. Tigers
By Zack Meisel / MLB.com
The second baseman penned his latest entry Wednesday, becoming the first Indians rookie with five hits and four runs in a game since Jim Fridley accomplished the feat in 1952. Yet all Kipnis' manager could say about him after the Indians' 10-3 drubbing of the Tigers was that Kipnis was a "dirtbag."
"He's a gamer. He's a dirtbag," said Tribe skipper Manny Acta. "I feel like we found our own [Dustin] Pedroia, [Chase] Utley, or a mix in-between."
No matter the deceiving connotation of the term, Acta heaped praise on his rookie.
"A dirtbag is one of those guys that runs through a wall to win every single day," Acta said. "He throws himself around, is always dirty, runs every ball out, just does whatever it takes to win. That's what we call a dirtbag in baseball. Really not concerned about how he looks on the field, but just getting it done."
When he arrived in Cleveland on July 22, Kipnis left behind a Minor League slump. In 10 games at Triple-A Columbus prior to his callup, he batted .103 (4-for-39). That funk carried over into his big league initiation, as he scuffled at the plate while splitting time with Orlando Cabrera at second base.
"When I got up here, I was still kind of struggling with my swing and my approach," Kipnis said. "I might have been pressing a little bit, maybe forcing the issue. I think I've come back down and stayed within myself, just stayed through the ball and tried to swing at better pitches."
The Indians boasted enough confidence in Kipnis that they parted ways with Cabrera before the non-waiver Trade Deadline, leaving second base in the hands of an unproven rookie batting .118 in six career games.
Since assuming the everyday role, however, Kipnis has quickly constructed the makings of a memorable freshman campaign. After Wednesday's five-hit performance, he raised his average to .356 (16-for-45) with six home runs, 10 RBIs and 13 runs scored in his past 10 games. He's batting .295 overall.
"Needless to say, he's been pretty impressive," said Tigers manager Jim Leyland. "I would say that's an understatement. He's a good-looking young hitter."
Kipnis' first four home runs came in consecutive games, making him the first member of the Tribe since Travis Hafner in 2006 to connect on a long ball in four straight contests. He also became the first Indians rookie since Al Rosen in 1950 to tally a four-game homer streak.
"It's a small sample, but it's been very, very good. Everything that I've heard about him, he's capable of doing that," Acta said. "I'm surprised by the power he has shown in such a short period of time, but we've liked him since Spring Training."
Strolling into Progressive Field each day knowing his name will be penciled in near the top of the lineup has eased his approach at the plate.
"It's allowed me a chance to get a little bit more comfortable," Kipnis said. "The faith they put in me, I know that even on a bad day, I'm not worried about being taken out of the lineup or something like that. I have confidence in myself and they have the confidence in me to put me right back in there and go get them the next day. It's a little boost and it's reassuring."
Perhaps as reassuring as being called a "dirtbag" by his manager.
Zack Meisel is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.