With Kipnis' injury, Tribe's depth put to test
ANAHEIM -- When the Indians assembled their bench over the past two offseasons, the idea was to add versatile players capable of handling a full-time job. That way, if an unexpected injury came up, Cleveland would have replacements at the ready.
On Tuesday, the Indians faced their first test of the season along those lines. All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis exited with a right abdominal strain and it is unclear how much time he will miss with the injury. It is now up to utility men such as Mike Aviles, Elliot Johnson and Ryan Raburn to help fill in.
"They happen," Indians manager Terry Francona said of injuries. "You don't know when they're going to happen, but you know they're going to happen. ... It usually comes up, so finding guys that are able to play once a week, and also play every day when need be, that's a really hard mix.
"That's why we were so happy when we got Aviles. Raburn fits that. They're hard to find. That's why, when something happens to somebody, we generally just play those guys, because they get their at-bats, they stay ready, they're very professional."
With outfielder Michael Brantley getting a scheduled day off on Wednesday, Aviles started in left field for Cleveland. Johnson got the nod at second base, considering Kipnis is sidelined. The right-handed-hitting Raburn was in the lineup as the designated hitter, because the Angels had left-hander C.J. Wilson on the mound.
All three utility men -- Aviles, Johnson and Raburn -- can handle the corner outfield spots, with Aviles and Johnson also offering contingency plans for center. Aviles also gives Cleveland depth at second base, shortstop and third. Johnson can play all four infield spots and is the Tribe's emergency catcher. Raburn has experience at the infield corners and second base.
"We have a lot of guys that can play multiple positions," Aviles said. "So I think that kind of helps, as far as in the event of injuries. I think [general manager Chris Antonetti] and [Francona] have done a great job of building a roster in that way. You're kind of giving yourself some cushion in case people do get hurt."