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Lindor starting '19 on injured list; Kipnis delayed

@MandyBell02
March 22, 2019

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- It’s been the curse of the calf strains for the Indians’ middle infield this spring. Just when it looked like All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor would have a chance at being back in the Indians’ lineup for Opening Day, the club announced on Friday that he’ll start the

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- It’s been the curse of the calf strains for the Indians’ middle infield this spring. Just when it looked like All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor would have a chance at being back in the Indians’ lineup for Opening Day, the club announced on Friday that he’ll start the season on the injured list.

Lindor, sidelined since Feb. 6 with a moderate right calf strain, has checked off nearly every box he’s needed in order to get back into Major League games and said on Wednesday that he wasn’t surprised with how quickly he’s progressed through his rehab. Although Lindor’s return may be knocking at the door, Indians manager Terry Francona wanted to make sure his shortstop is healthy for the balance of the 2019 season. The earliest he can return to the Tribe’s lineup is April 4.

“I think, like most players, he had Opening Day as that marker, which I respect,” Francona said. “I think the best way to explain it is sometimes you got to do the right thing even when it’s not convenient. It’s so hard when he wants to play so bad to put him on hold for a little bit, but it’s the right thing to do.

“I mean the medical people are adamant that it’s the right thing to do, so we have to respect that. And I told Frankie. It’s no fun telling him that. I mean, shoot, I want him to play every game. But it is the right thing to do. We’ll get him back, and he’ll play the rest of the year and he won’t have to worry about it.”

On top of losing their shortstop, the Indians also announced Friday night that second baseman Jason Kipnis won’t take part in baseball activities for 7-10 days after an MRI exam revealed he had a low-grade (mild) right calf strain. He will be re-evaluated after his timetable of inactivity. Kipnis has been battling tightness in his right calf over the last week and was removed from Wednesday’s game against the Giants after the pain continued.

“We haven’t gotten too deep into what he’s gonna [do] just because they got the results back today,” Francona said. “So, we got some work to do there to see where he’s at.”

With both middle infielders now unavailable for Opening Day on Thursday at Minnesota, the team is quickly working through its options. Eric Stamets was pulled from the Indians’ home game against the Angels on Wednesday for precautionary reasons after he experienced some tightness in his left hip, but Francona is optimistic he’ll be able to play in the final three exhibition games of the spring. He’ll likely be penciled in at shortstop until Lindor is cleared, leaving Max Moroff as the current option at second.

“One, he can play [second, short and third] and he switch-hits,” Francona said of Moroff. “That is in our favor. Now, he just needs more playing time in the big leagues.”

Just hours before Kipnis reaggravated his calf, infielder Ryan Flaherty opted out of his Minor League contract. Now, with a need in the middle infield, the Indians are having to check who is still available to sign to add some depth. With Stamets seeming to be a lock at short, Francona said they’ve mostly been looking at second basemen.

“I think we’re pretty comfortable -- we know Frankie’s not gonna be very long -- because Stamets catches the ball so well that sometimes you make a little jump on offense [by adding someone new], but what you sacrifice defensively is just not worth it,” Francona said. “It’s nice to know when the ball’s hit, you’re out. That’s a pretty good feeling.”

Outfielder Bradley Zimmer continues to advance in his rehab from July right shoulder surgery but will also begin the season on the injured list. Francona noted that Lindor, Kipnis and Zimmer will likely stay in Goodyear after the team breaks camp.

“[Zimmer] has done a terrific job of rehabbing and things,” Francona said. “He’s light years ahead of where we thought he’d be at this time. Now he needs to keep that progression going.”

Mandy Bell covers the Indians for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MandyBell02.