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Kipnis continues torrid start to Spring Training

Former All-Star hits fifth Cactus League homer after injury-plagued 2017
Special to MLB.com

PHOENIX -- Autographs.

Pictures.

View Full Game Coverage

PHOENIX -- Autographs.

Pictures.

View Full Game Coverage

Home runs.

It is all in a day's work out here for Jason Kipnis, a familiar name not only among Cleveland fans but also among Arizona State followers who remember him from the Sun Devils' 2009 College World Series team. 

Several of the hats Kipnis signed after hitting his fifth spring homer in the Indians' 6-2 victory over Milwaukee on Sunday had the ASU logo.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

His fifth homer, a two-run liner to right field. 

Hands in, head of the bat to the ball.

Five games, 14 at-bats, eight hits, five homers.

"Just starting off in a little bit of a groove, of being balanced and on time, getting results," Kipnis said. "I think that is something every hitter works on every year and every day of hitting. You want to be balanced and on time."

Health helps. Kipnis spent time on the disabled list with shoulder and hamstring issues last season, holding him to a career-low 90 games. 

"He is a good hitter," manager Terry Francona said. "When somebody gets hurt, the [fans] forget. But we need him to be healthy, because he's that kind of player that can change your team." 

Video: CLE@MIL: Kipnis opens scoring with a two-run homer

Kipnis' strong start seems to be a testament to his offseason dedication and his desire to return to the form that helped him average 145 games a season from 2012-16.

"When you are not healthy, you are spending time doing treatment and other things instead of working on your craft and hitting in the cages," he said. "It is nice to have that freedom and that luxury to be able to go out and train without having to worry about a specific injury. You want to make sure you are flexible and strong. [The season] is a grind, especially more with the spring and the playoffs. It's tough, so your body has to be in good shape."

Kipnis played his final 11 games in center field after he returned from his hamstring issues in mid-September last year, when Jose Ramirez moved to second base and Giovanny Urshela and Yandy Diaz played third. All signs point to Kipnis returning to second base this season. 

Wherever he plays, he will make it work. 

Indians' Spring Training info | Tickets | Schedule

The goal?

"Have a good year for the team and you," Kipnis said. "Make sure the team has a good year. The second would be yourself."

Kluber, with a 'K'

Corey Kluber gave up four hits, three in the first inning Sunday, although leadoff man Christian Yelich's double to the wall in the right-center field gap was the only one that was particularly well struck.

Kluber gave up a run in the first and was typically overpowering the rest of the way, striking out five and retiring eight of his final nine.

He struck out three of the last five he faced, getting Domingo Santana looking at a breaking pitch to end the third inning. Santana had an RBI single over shortstop in the first.

Video: Kluber, Zimmer discuss expectations for 2018

"The kind of nice thing was, he had to work out of the stretch, which is good," Francona said. "He had to make some pitches with men on base. It was just like Kluber. Every outing, you will see him get a little bit more, and by the time we get to Opening Day, he'll be ready." 

Kluber gave up one run and struck out three in his first spring start against Oakland last Tuesday.

He was 15-2 with a 1.62 ERA in his final 23 starts regular-season starts in 2017 after spending May on the disabled list with lower bask soreness.

Injury report

Michael Brantley did more position-specific outfield drills Sunday morning and should be pleased with the progress he is making, Francona said.

Video: Brantley talks recovery from right ankle surgery

"He should be upbeat," Francona said. "He's in great shape. Through thick and thin, he's been diligent in what he's supposed to do. We're going to be thrilled to have him back, whether it's the second week of April, whenever … because that's a position you don't have to platoon. You just wind him up and let him go play."

Danny Salazar (shoulder) played catch at 90 feet on Sunday as he continues to work toward bullpen sessions and batting practice. He appears certain to miss at least the first several weeks of the regular season.

Brandon Guyer took a day off after hitting off a tee the past two days.

Up next

Right-hander Mike Clevinger is scheduled to make his third spring start against the Los Angeles Dodgers at the Dodgers' Camelback Ranch complex at 3:05 p.m. ET on Monday. Left-hander Rich Hill is scheduled to start for the Dodgers. 

 Clevinger has not been scored upon in his first two outings, covering three innings 

 Other Cleveland pitchers scheduled to make the trip are Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, Ryan Merritt, Evan Marshall and Robert Zarate.

Jack Magruder is a contributor to MLB.com.

Cleveland Indians, Jason Kipnis