06/20/12 7:15 PM ET
All-Star hopeful Kipnis adjusts to rare day off
By Justin Albers / MLB.com
The Indians second baseman has been so good at the plate and in the field this season, he's only been out of the starting lineup one time. And even that day -- April 14 at Kansas City -- Kipnis entered in the third inning when third baseman Jack Hannahan was ejected.
So when manager Manny Acta kept Kipnis out of the lineup Wednesday in an effort to rest him for back-to-back days, Kipnis struggled to adjust to the change in routine. The Indians have a scheduled off-day on Thursday.
"I really have no idea what to do with myself right now," Kipnis said before Wednesday's game against the Reds. "They won't let me do anything. I tried to go do some cardio and they said, 'What are you doing in here?' I asked if I could take batting practice and they said to stay off the field. I'm trying not to get yelled at right now."
Kipnis bruised his knee on a play against the Tigers on the team's last road trip, and Acta said Wednesday's day off had been planned "a long time ago" with the team's medical staff. Jose Lopez started at second in place of Kipnis on Wednesday night.
The rest also comes at a good time because Kipnis has struggled recently at the plate. Entering Wednesday's game, he was just 7-for-33 in his last eight games.
"It's nice to get a break," Kipnis said. "It'll be good to just clear the head and get away from the diamond for a little bit."
Despite his recent struggles, Kipnis continues to be one of the Indians' best offensive performers. Entering Wednesday, Kipnis led the team in hits (75), home runs (11), RBIs (41), and games played (67).
Acta believes Kipnis deserves to be an All-Star. He was fourth among American League second basemen in the latest All-Star balloting results released earlier this week.
"Unfortunately we have some stud second basemen in the American League," Acta said. "[Ian] Kinsler and [Dustin] Pedroia and [Robinson] Cano -- that's a tough crowd. But without a doubt, [Kipnis] is an All-Star. He's played like one, his numbers indicate that, and I'd love to see him there."
Acta: Hafner likely ahead of schedule in rehab
CLEVELAND -- Injured designated hitter Travis Hafner began a jogging and agility program on Tuesday, and manager Manny Acta indicated he may be ahead of schedule for a return.
Hafner had knee surgery on May 31, and was expected to miss four to six weeks. If the timetable holds, Hafner could potentially return before the end of the month. He will have to make at least one rehab start before rejoining the Indians lineup.
"We're anticipating that he's probably going to be ahead of schedule," Acta said. "We don't have any timetable yet for any rehab or games."
Hafner, who continues to take regular batting practice, said his knee has responded well to the increased work load. Hafner hasn't played since May 23 against Detroit.
"I did some jogging, that was good," Hafner said. "I've been taking BP the last couple days, that's fine. It's just a matter of progressing."
Hannahan's play marks banner night for gloves
CLEVELAND -- Jack Hannahan saw the bat coming at him, but he didn't care. He was too focused on the ball.
Part of Chris Heisey's splintered bat bounced toward Hannahan at third in the 10th inning of Tuesday night's 3-2 win over the Reds, and bruised his right shin. But Hannahan still managed to field Heisey's ground ball and record an out at second on the play.
"Usually when there's a broken bat coming at you," Hannahan said, "one or the other will get there before, so you have time to get out of the way and get the ball, or get the ball and get out of the way. That was the first time I've really seen the bat and ball get to me at the same time.
"I saw them both coming, and I was just anchored in and really focused on the ball."
Hannahan knows his injury could have been much worse, but he said he didn't think about the potential harm of the bat. He just wanted to get an out and give his team a chance to win in the bottom of the 10th.
"He fielded that ball like that bat wasn't coming," said Indians manager Manny Acta. "I know that a lot of people would've probably lost their concentration and probably run away from that bat."
Hannahan's play was the best of a number of exceptional defensive plays for the Indians in their walk-off win. Center fielder Michael Brantley made a leaping catch at the wall in left-center field to rob Ryan Ludwick of extra bases, and first baseman Casey Kotchman leaned into the stands to catch a foul ball, avoiding the glove of a fan in the process.
With an offense that struggled to get anything going until late, the Indians -- as they often do -- relied on pitching and defense to keep them close.
"That's something that got us where we're at right now, hanging in there," Acta said. "We worked hard trying to put a good defensive team on the field, and it has really helped us."
Quote to note
"We are all Kipnises, but we do have to take care of him."
-- Acta, on giving Kipnis the day off Wednesday and playing off the LeBron James "We Are All Witnesses" Nike campaign
Left-handed reliever Rafael Perez resumed a throwing program on Wednesday, but there is still no timetable for his return. Perez is on the disabled list with a strained left lat.
Recently drafted Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden threw out the first pitch before Wednesday night's game against the Reds.
Kotchman has been one of the team's best run producers recently. Entering Wednesday's game, Kotchman was hitting .333 with two home runs and seven RBIs in his last six games. He has six homers and 27 RBIs on the season.
"The RBIs end up being a by-product of the guys in front of you getting on base," Kotchman said. "Brantley's been on so much the last month. Fortunately, if you come up with guys on base, you want to make the most out of it."
Right fielder Shin-Soo Choo entered Wednesday's game hitting .344 with seven doubles, seven home runs and 16 RBIs in his career against the Reds, before promptly making it eight doubles in his first at-bat. Choo went 3-for-4 on Tuesday night, and was on first base when Asdrubal Cabrera hit his walk-off homer.
Justin Albers is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.