5/28/2014 11:58 P.M. ET
Kipnis hits cleanup in first game off the disabled list
By Joe Popely / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Jason Kipnis not only made his first start since April 29, but he was thrust right into the middle of the lineup Wednesday night against the White Sox. The All-Star second baseman, who was officially activated off the disabled list, was slotted in the cleanup spot between the red-hot Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall.
Francona said he sat down both Brantley and Kipnis to make sure they were OK with the move. He said he didn't want to move Brantley out of the three-hole, where he's been doing well -- he has a 14-game hitting streak -- but that it's the spot normally occupied by Kipnis.
"They were fine, they're great,'" Francona said of the two players being on board with the plan. "Kip was like, 'You're overthinking it, just hit me wherever you want.'"
Francona said he ideally wants more balance in his lineup than he has now. It's nothing new for the Tribe to employ a heavy left-handed lineup, but with switch-hitters Nick Swisher and Carlos Santana on the DL, Francona had six lefties and one switch-hitter (Asdrubal Cabrera) Wednesday night.
Fielding that sort of unbalanced lineup is also by design. Francona noted that the White Sox only had one left-hander in the bullpen -- Scott Downs, who has been used in each of the first two games of the series. Plus, he'd prefer to go after the starter first and foremost. The Indians were taking on right-hander Hector Noesi Wednesday night.
"My thought process is: One, when you put out a lineup, you're trying to beat the starter, and then you're trying to have a lineup where they can't maneuver their bullpen without having to think about things," Francona said.
Still, Francona recognizes such a left-handed lineup won't work all the time. He'll continue to tinker while Swisher and Santana work their way back. Kipnis, for example, may not continue to hit fourth.
"Today he is. I'm not sure what we're going to do," Francona said. "I mean Kip can actually hit anywhere, and so can Brantley. ... Again, if we swing it like we can, that'll take care of itself, and if we don't, I'll be searching. That's kind of what it is."
Kipnis finished 0-for-4 in the 3-2 loss.
Indians eyeing quick recoveries for Swisher, Santana
CHICAGO -- Injured first baseman Nick Swisher was evaluated Wednesday in Cleveland by team doctors for his ailing knees. The good news is that the doctors confirmed there was no structural damage and that the issues to both of his knees appear to be related to wear and tear over a 10-year career more than anything else.
"There's some arthritic changes, which I think we knew," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I mean, he can't play this long, so he got both knees injected and that puts him down, I think, three to five days, let that thing calm down. And then, I think, the initial view is that it won't be an extended DL. Hopefully, when this two weeks is up, he might be raring to go."
Swisher had been bothered by right knee problems for much of the season that eventually cleared up within the past two weeks. He said he may have been overcompensating with his left leg during that period of right knee issues, which could have led to him hyperextending his knee running out a ground ball in Monday's game.
Carlos Santana, who was placed on the seven-day concussion DL on Tuesday after taking a foul tip to the mask Sunday in Baltimore, was still with the team on Wednesday. He was a late scratch from Monday's lineup because he was feeling sick, which was only made worse by the concussion-like symptoms he was experiencing.
Francona said Santana wanted to drive home with his wife, who is with him in Chicago, but was not allowed to do so by the training staff for his own protection.
"It's not a penalty, we need him to follow with us," Francona said. "But I thought he actually looked better yesterday, which is good. I'm not an expert on concussions, other than that I've had a bundle.
"They will completely walk through what he's supposed to do. The last thing I wanted is go back there and nudge him. He'll play when he's allowed to play."
Carrasco letting it loose out of bullpen
CHICAGO -- Carlos Carrasco has found a new home in the Indians bullpen after his attempt at starting didn't go as planned.
Carrasco posted a 6.95 ERA in four starts, but has rediscovered his confidence in the 'pen, where he has a 2.57 ERA in eight appearances covering 14 innings.
"You know what, as soon as they put me in the bullpen, I just feel differently, because in the bullpen, you can come in and throw, one, two, three innings, something like that," Carrasco said. "But I feel like my comfort level, everything is good. And I can transfer all that to the rotation when they give me another opportunity in the rotation."
Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway said Carrasco has benefited from the move because the righty is able to rear back and fire his fastball in the upper 90s without hesitation. He wants Carrasco to bring that attacking bullpen mentality with him to the starting rotation, should the move come.
"You know what, out of the bullpen, I just go for it," Carrasco said. "And as soon as they put me in the bullpen, I saw a difference in my velocity. I think it was 95, 98, 99, something like that because you don't have to save anything. … You just go for it."
He may not be able to bring that kind of heat for an entire start right now, but Callaway thinks Carrasco would be able to do so given time.
"Yeah, I mean go ahead and let it go. See what happens. See how deep you get out," Callaway said. "You might make it two innings your first outings, but then third one you'll start building it up to where you can maintain that. I mean, he can throw hard for a reason because he has the ability to. He's just got to build that up to where he can do it for six, seven innings."
Chisenhall willing to take on challenges of first base
CHICAGO -- Indians manager Terry Francona hinted before Tuesday's game that Lonnie Chisenhall might see more time at first while Nick Swisher is on the disabled list. It happened even quicker than expected when Chisenhall pinch-hit for Jesus Aguilar in the fourth inning of Tuesday's game and took Aguilar's spot at first thereafter.
"I had no qualms about playing him at first," Francona said. "Again, I think that's that little bit transformation of Lonnie, that he welcomes whatever."
Francona would also have a hard time not getting Chisenhall's bat in the lineup. Chisenhall was hitting .370 with a .966 OPS in 40 games, entering play Wednesday night.
"I don't doubt he'll work his way into an outfield one of these games," Francona said. "Something crazy will happen and we'll have to stick him out there and he'll do fine, and if he doesn't, he'll bounce back. I just think that he's at a point in his growth where he is liking challenges. I think he's viewing them as ways to get in the game, ways to help us win, as opposed to, 'Well, why am I not playing today?'"
Francona also lauded Chisenhall's work ethic, explaining that the former first-round pick has been working hard to correct his struggles in the field. Chisenhall has eight errors at third this year.
Chisenhall said he's confident he can master first, but understands there will be a learning curve. That especially applies to bunts and weakly hit balls down the first base, for which he'll have to decide to either charge the ball or cover first.
"I know there's going to be some instances where I'm going to have to make a decision on the fly or learn after that fact," he said. "It's just a matter of getting those reps over there and let things happen."
Chisenhall moved over to first base in the eighth inning of Wednesday's 3-2 loss and couldn't come up with Mike Aviles' errant throw in the ninth, which set up Chicago's winning rally.
Quote to note
"On a day like today, we're a little beat up, G understands so well -- regardless of what his batting average is -- if he gets one mistake tonight and he deposits it in the seats, that can help us win a game. And he really gets that."
--Francona, on Jason Giambi's ability to give the Indians extra pop off the bench with Swisher and Santana hurt. Giambi, hitting sixth as the DH, homered in the second inning.
• Francona said injured starter Zach McAllister will throw off the mound Friday at Progressive Field in some capacity, with the best-case scenario being McAllister facing hitters from Class A Lake County.
• Entering play Wednesday, Tribe relievers had stranded 87 of 107 inherited runners (81.3 percent), the second best mark in MLB.
• In addition to his hot hitting, Brantley also has a .990 fielding percentage (one error in 96 chances) and leads the Majors with six outfield assists.
Joe Popely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.