Sacrifice leads to Kipnis' first hit of season
TORONTO -- Jason Kipnis' cell phone buzzed on Thursday afternoon. When the Indians second baseman looked at the screen, he saw a text message from his dad.
The note read: I sacrificed a chicken.
After the first two games of the season, Kipnis was still searching for his first hit of the 2013 campaign. Kipnis' wait came to an end in the first inning on Thursday, when he sent a pitch from lefty Mark Buehrle into left field for a double.
Cleveland's No. 3 hitter is expected to be a key piece to the team's offense and manager Terry Francona isn't worrying much about the second baseman's slow start.
"He'll be fine," Francona said.
Francona pointed to Kipnis' first at-bat in Wednesday's 11-inning, 3-2 victory over the Blue Jays as an example. Kipnis sliced a pitch from hard-throwing righty Brandon Morrow to the warning track in left field, where Toronto outfielder Melky Cabrera made a strong play to catch the ball. Kipnis went 0-for-5 on the night to slip to 0-for-9 on the season.
"That gets lost in the shuffle," Francona said of Kipnis' loud out in the first inning. "I mean, he waffled that ball. Melky makes a great play, so you have to remember that. If that ball lands, I guarantee he feels good about himself. You just have to not lose sight of that."
Kipnis opened the spring slate by going 6-for-42 (.143) at the plate, but showed improvement in the final week of Cactus League play. In his final four games, the second baseman hit .286 (4-for-14) with three extra-base hits and four RBIs. Kipnis, who hit .257 with 14 homers, 31 stolen bases and 76 RBIs for the Tribe last season, also got extra at-bats in Minor League games down the stretch.
Francona was encouraged by what he saw from Kipnis leading up to the regular season.
"Yes, very much so," Francona said. "It's like [on Wednesday], when you see a guy hit a ball to the opposite field like that, you can't hit a ball to the opposite field with authority without doing everything right."