CLEVELAND -- With the Indians in the midst of their toughest month on the schedule, the return of second baseman Jason Kipnis could not have come at a better time.
Before their 8-1 loss to the Yankees on Sunday at Progressive Field, the Indians announced that Kipnis was activated from the 10-day disabled list, and he started at second. As a result of Kipnis' return to the Majors, utility man Erik Gonzalez was optioned to Triple-A Columbus.
Kipnis, who went 0-for-4 Sunday, returned from a right hamstring strain that he sustained on July 8 while trying to beat out a ground ball against the Tigers. He was placed on the DL the following day -- Giovanny Urshela was recalled -- and he had been sidelined ever since.
"It happened right before the All-Star break," Kipnis said, "so, I mean, that is kind of the midpoint for me anyways. You're looking for a strong second half, and this just gave me hopefully the chance I needed to kind of get my feet back under me and start to prepare for the late push and help this team."
Sunday marks the second time this season that Kipnis has returned from the DL. He began the season on the shelf with a right shoulder injury before making his debut on April 21 against the White Sox. The 30-year-old second baseman played in four rehab games between Triple-A Columbus and Double-A Akron before returning to the club.
"You listen to what your body tells you," Kipnis said about his rehab. "If it says you need longer time warming up, then you need longer time warming up. It just kind of comes with the territory of getting older."
When asked about pushing off the hamstring and diving while playing second, Kipnis said he is confident that the injury will not hinder his ability to play the position.
"I think that'll come with reactionary plays," Kipnis said. "Some that just kind of run hard off the bat, ones that you don't have time to think about it. But at the same time, it's feeling good. We've passed all the tests and mentally I am more than capable of pushing off, jumping and doing all of those things I need to do."
In 66 games before going down, Kipnis was hitting .232 with eight homers, 19 doubles and 26 RBIs. He also scored 32 runs, drew 22 walks and stole five bases. With Kipnis returning to the top of the lineup, the Indians are hoping that the two-time All-Star can continue the success he was having before sustaining the injury. He went 4-for-9 with four doubles, four runs scored and three walks in his last three games before his stint on the DL.
In Kipnis' absence, the Indians used Gonzalez and Jose Ramirez at second base. When Gonzalez played second, Ramirez played his regular position at the hot corner. For the times Ramirez shifted over to second, Urshela played third. With Gonzalez's demotion, Urshela and Ramirez can serve as backup options at shortstop behind Francisco Lindor.
Gonzalez hit .263 (21-for-80) with two homers, five doubles, six RBIs and 11 runs scored in 39 games this season. He and Urshela provided stellar defense in Kipnis' absence.
"They've carried their weight defensively, I'll say that," manager Terry Francona said on Saturday. "Now, Erik's found ways. I think he's hitting .270 or something like that. And it's hard for a young guy to play sparingly, but he gets his work in all the time and he's done a really good job. He is an elite defender."