Kipnis hits cleanup in first game off the disabled list
CHICAGO -- Jason Kipnis not only made his first start since April 29, but he was thrust right into the middle of the lineup Wednesday night against the White Sox. The All-Star second baseman, who was officially activated off the disabled list, was slotted in the cleanup spot between the red-hot Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall.
Francona said he sat down both Brantley and Kipnis to make sure they were OK with the move. He said he didn't want to move Brantley out of the three-hole, where he's been doing well -- he has a 14-game hitting streak -- but that it's the spot normally occupied by Kipnis.
"They were fine, they're great,'" Francona said of the two players being on board with the plan. "Kip was like, 'You're overthinking it, just hit me wherever you want.'"
Francona said he ideally wants more balance in his lineup than he has now. It's nothing new for the Tribe to employ a heavy left-handed lineup, but with switch-hitters Nick Swisher and Carlos Santana on the DL, Francona had six lefties and one switch-hitter (Asdrubal Cabrera) Wednesday night.
Fielding that sort of unbalanced lineup is also by design. Francona noted that the White Sox only had one left-hander in the bullpen -- Scott Downs, who has been used in each of the first two games of the series. Plus, he'd prefer to go after the starter first and foremost. The Indians were taking on right-hander Hector Noesi Wednesday night.
"My thought process is: One, when you put out a lineup, you're trying to beat the starter, and then you're trying to have a lineup where they can't maneuver their bullpen without having to think about things," Francona said.
Still, Francona recognizes such a left-handed lineup won't work all the time. He'll continue to tinker while Swisher and Santana work their way back. Kipnis, for example, may not continue to hit fourth.
"Today he is. I'm not sure what we're going to do," Francona said. "I mean Kip can actually hit anywhere, and so can Brantley. ... Again, if we swing it like we can, that'll take care of itself, and if we don't, I'll be searching. That's kind of what it is."
Kipnis finished 0-for-4 in the 3-2 loss.