4/11/2014 9:28 P.M. ET
There's no place like home for Kipnis
By Joe Popely / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- "There's no place like home" isn't a saying reserved for Dorothy. It seems to apply to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, too.
Kipnis, a native of Northbrook, Ill., was hitting .411 with 15 runs scored, four home runs, 20 RBIs and a 1.179 OPS in 20 career games at U.S. Cellular Field entering Friday's game. With a first-inning single Thursday, Kipnis has hit safely in 19 of those 20 contests.
"I do have a good time hitting in this place," said Kipnis, who is hitting a robust .429 with four doubles, a homer and nine RBIs in his last eight games here. "It's always nice to come home and just feel comfortable here with friends and family in the stands, and having a meal that I probably have eaten before in my stomach. Whatever is the case, I enjoy hitting here."
Kipnis still leaves tickets for friends and family, but he said the number of requests has dwindled since he made his Indians debut in 2011, now that the "awe factor" of his callup has worn off. He remains close with his coaches at Glenbrook North High School, and said he tries to get them to his games on the South Side whenever possible.
Kipnis' high-school teammate, Justin Weiner, is now a coach for the freshman team. Kipnis donates batting gloves and other equipment to the program and would like to help out more in the future.
The only other question remaining is the most obvious: Cubs or Sox? Kipnis went to many games on both sides of town growing up.
"I was a baseball fan, so I didn't pick a side," he said. "I liked the game more than each team."
Francona thinks team will handle lefties well
CHICAGO -- The early results against left-handed starters has not been good for the Indians. The Tribe has gone 1-3 against lefties entering Friday's game, hitting just .192 with a .542 OPS, both figures ranking 12th in the American League.
Nonetheless, Indians manager Francona remains confident he has the personnel to handle southpaw pitchers.
"I don't think with our bench, it should impact us a whole lot," he said. "We match up pretty good, like splits or vs. lefty or righty just by changing it, because we have three switch-hitters and have some guys on the bench that can do things, so I think it's more of how guys pitch, not the way they pitch."
It's also too small of a sample size to draw a realistic conclusion. The Indians have lost to talented veteran lefties Scott Kazmir (A's) and John Danks (White Sox), as well as highly-touted Padres prospect Robbie Erlin, and beat Erlin's rotation mate, Eric Stults.
"We've got how many more games left? We've only got a handful of games so far, so it's still early," Ryan Raburn said. "You can't look into it too much right now. Guys hitting .100, that don't mean nothing. Guys hitting .500 don't mean nothing. It's still early, guys playing hard, and that's all that matters. Sooner or later, we'll get on a hot streak and start rolling off some wins. "
U.S. Cellular always magical for Raburn
CHICAGO -- Meet Ryan Raburn, perennial White Sox killer. With a pair of hits Thursday, Raburn raised his career average vs. Chicago to .303 in nearly 300 at-bats, a significant sample size. He's even better as a visiting player, putting up a slash line of .320/.371/.551 in 178 at-bats.
But unlike Tribe second baseman Jason Kipnis, an Illinois native, Raburn can't point to why he has so much success against the Sox, and in particular, at U.S. Cellular field.
"Man, if I had a clue to that, I'd be letting everybody else know that," Raburn said with a laugh. "Nah, it's just one of those places. I see the ball well here. I'm comfortable here. I think when you're confident and comfortable, you tend to have results."
The right-handed hitting Raburn has been in high demand in recent days, as the Indians faced a left-handed starter for the fourth consecutive game Friday night. It's a big reason why he's played so much against the White Sox dating back to his days with the Tigers.
Even when Raburn had a .171 average in 2012, his final year with the Tigers, he still scratched out a .238 average (5-for-21) at U.S. Cellular Field.
"Even the last year in Detroit, it was such a terrible year, even when we came here, I was still able to get some hits," he said. "It's just one of those places that's been good to me and hopefully continues to [be]."
Quote to note
"We've got a very versatile team, and we've got a great group of guys that just play hard and that's all you can ask. We're not going to have that one superstar that has to carry the team. We've got 25 guys that help everybody and contribute, and that's what you need to be able to win some ballgames."
-- Raburn on the Indians' ability to mix and match players throughout the lineup
• Outfielder Michael Bourn went 0-for-4 with a walk and two strikeouts in his first rehab start for Double-A Akron Thursday. He'll play another full game Friday night and is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list on Sunday.
"He really wants to play Sunday, which we're OK with," Francona said. "But the weather's supposed to be really bad here, so when we told him that, we're going to talk to him tonight [about] what we should do going forward. He said he felt really good last night running. Again, we don't want to slow him down, so we'll see how he does tonight."
• First baseman/DH Jason Giambi played in his first rehab game Friday night for Akron. Francona said Giambi might not play the full game and that his second rehab game is more important.
• Kipnis was selected to join the Taylor Hooton Foundation Advisory Board, which is comprised exclusively of Major League players. The Foundation is widely acknowledged as the leader in the advocacy against performance-enhancing drug use by America's youth.
"When you really look into it and what it is and what it stands for, it's a great cause, it's a great message to be sending to the younger population of players," Kipnis said. "I'm glad and very proud to be a part of it and am looking forward to helping wherever I can."
• Justin Sellers would become the 28th Indians player to see action in 2014 if he's called into a game. He was recalled from Triple-A Columbus on Thursday to take the place of Lonnie Chisenhall, who is on paternity leave after the birth of his second son, Cannon. Cleveland has used 12 position players and 15 pitchers.
Joe Popely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.