CLEVELAND -- The first time Jason Kipnis was briefly sidelined with wrist discomfort, the Tribe’s second baseman knew it wasn’t a hamate bone issue. This time, he wasn’t as lucky.
The Indians announced prior to Tuesday’s series opener against the Tigers that Kipnis’ MRI on Monday revealed a fracture of his hook of the hamate bone in his right wrist. The club is in the process of coordinating a follow-up with Dr. Thomas Graham -- a hand specialist based in New York -- but he’s expected to require surgery.
“We’re so fortunate that we have the ability to have Dr. Graham available to us,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “They’re in the process now of putting together an appointment for Kip to see Dr. Graham with the anticipation that a surgery will take place after that. That would effectively end his season.”
The typical time frame for return to Major League game activity is four to six weeks, which wouldn’t allow Kipnis to come back until the very end of the postseason in the best-case scenario. Because the 32-year-old is in the final year of his contract with the Tribe, this injury could be the end of his tenure in Cleveland. Kipnis spent the entirety of his nine-year career with the Indians, and the club is not expected to pick up his $16.5 million option for 2020.
“It's like you get kicked in the stomach a little bit just because you've been with these guys now for seven years and through a lot,” Francona said. “Some thick, some thin. But you still come through it. So to say, to try to act like you don't care about them, that would be false. It'd be lying. You care about the guys.”
The Indians are no stranger to this type of injury, as third baseman José Ramirez underwent surgery for a fractured hamate bone on Aug. 26 after injuring the wrist when he swung and missed at a pitch on Aug. 24. In a similar way, Kipnis felt discomfort in the area after he whiffed at a pitch in Minnesota at the beginning of the month, and reinjured it on a swing and miss on Sunday. In his latest occurrence, Kipnis stayed in for the remainder of his at-bat and recorded a double before he was lifted for a pinch-hitter before his next plate appearance.
“I always feel like we’ll figure it out,” Francona said. “It doesn’t sometimes get easier. Sometimes you lose a little margin for error. But I still feel like if we play the game like we’re supposed to, we can get done what we need to. Sometimes it becomes more challenging. That’s part of it. You deal with it.”
To add another infielder to the roster, the Indians recalled utility guy Andrew Velazquez from Triple-A Columbus. The 25-year-old was acquired from the Rays on July 3 and hit .244 with four doubles, one triple and five RBIs in 12 games with the Clippers. He’s been on the injured list three times between the two organizations due to left thumb and right hamstring injuries.
With Tampa Bay, he split the first half of the season between Triple-A Durham and the big league club, hitting .271 with 16 RBIs in 34 contests at Durham. The switch-hitter appeared in 10 games for the Rays and has played five different positions in 2019: second base, shortstop, third base, left and center field.
“Those guys [in Triple-A] kind of -- fell in love with him might be a little strong -- but they were really raving about his ability to play everywhere pretty well,” Francona said. “Including center field, second base, shortstop, third. Sounds like they feel like he’s a little bit better right-handed hitter. I don’t know how he feels. He probably feels OK from both sides just because he’s a New York kid and he sounds fairly confident. I know we were excited when we acquired him, and now that he’s here, kind of excited to see him play.”
• Brad Hand, who has been dealing with left arm fatigue over the past week, threw out to 100 feet on Monday and Tuesday and will throw a bullpen session on Wednesday.
• Corey Kluber (fractured right forearm and strained oblique) also threw out to 100 feet on Monday and was expected to repeat the same distance on Tuesday. There is still no mention of a possible 2019 return for the two-time American League Cy Young Award winner.
• Ramirez (fractured hamate bone) walked into the Indians’ clubhouse on Tuesday afternoon with a bat in his hands.
“He went out and took ground balls,” Francona said. “He’s been doing some drill work in the cage, and that will transfer to the field possibly [Wednesday]. We’ll see. We’ve got to see how he gets through today.”