GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians' hopes of coming out of the gate at full strength to defend their American League championship suffered a blow on Sunday, when manager Terry Francona conceded that starting second baseman Jason Kipnis would "probably not" be ready for Opening Day.The Indians decided on Sunday to
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians' hopes of coming out of the gate at full strength to defend their American League championship suffered a blow on Sunday, when manager Terry Francona conceded that starting second baseman Jason Kipnis would "probably not" be ready for Opening Day.
The Indians decided on Sunday to shut down Kipnis for two weeks due to a right rotator cuff strain.
"If he's shut down for two weeks, that's almost Opening Day right there, so probably not," Francona said. "Hopefully after these two weeks, [the medical staff can] completely knock it out, which would be great. And then let him ramp up. If he's healthy, he can ramp up quickly. But it's probably a stretch right now."
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Kipnis' absence would be a blow to the top of the Tribe's lineup, having been a dependable everyday player for the past five seasons. He's had over 500 at bats every season since 2012 and registered a career-high 610 at bats over 156 games in 2016. He hit .275 with a career-high 23 home runs during the regular season and had a .290 average with a pair of homers in the World Series.
"He's still been feeling it a little bit," Francona said. "We had him DHing today. He could certainly DH. He could actually go play second. But because there's times where he's feeling this thing, the determination was that we're going to keep him down for a couple weeks. What they do for the next couple weeks is still to be determined."
Kipnis has appeared in two Cactus League games this spring, serving as designated hitter Thursday against the Angels and again on Friday against the Giants. He is 2-for-5 with a walk and two strikeouts.
"He is getting better," Francona said. "Nothing has gone haywire, nothing has gone wrong. But it's such a long season that taking this approach, we just want to make sure that they knock it out and not get it at 90 or 85 [percent]. That's why we're doing this."
Last Wednesday, Kipnis said his shoulder ailment fell into the category of "routine" soreness he feels every spring. He tends to stay of the disabled list, and his last visit was due to right shoulder inflammation in August 2015.
If all goes according to plan, Kipnis would resume activity a week before the Indians open their season in Texas on Monday, April 3.
Jose Ramirez and Erik Gonzalez, the Tribe's No. 8 prospect according to MLBPipeline.com, are front runners to start at second in Kipnis' absence. Ramirez played 152 games for Cleveland last season, mostly in left and at third, hitting .312. Gonzalez had two stints in Cleveland last season, hitting .313 (5-for-16) in 21 games.
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com.