Kipnis settling in, looking to get in groove at plate
ARLINGTON -- Jason Kipnis is still searching for some consistency at the plate since coming off the disabled list nearly two weeks ago. The Indians' All-Star second baseman is no longer citing timing issues for his slow showing since rejoining the lineup.
"Now that we're over a week in," Kipnis said before Monday's game, "we've had enough at-bats and seen enough pitches where we're back in the groove of things. Now, if I get outs it's because I messed up, not because of the timing."
Entering Monday's game in Texas, Kipnis was batting .243 (9-for-37) in 10 games since being activated from the 15-day DL on May 28 following a month-long recovery from a strained right oblique. The second baseman had not launched a home run since April 21 and his last extra-base hit came on April 24.
He turned in an impressive night on Monday, though, going 3-for-5 with four RBIs and three runs scored.
Kipnis is the last batter that Indians manager Terry Francona is worried about.
"He's not in midseason form at the plate," Francona said, "but he's made every play at second and he's always a threat at the plate. There's no doubt that he'll get real hot and you'll see the numbers changed. The fact that he's hitting fourth shows you probably how we feel.
"He's a really good player. The more at-bats he gets while he's healthy, he'll be fine."
Kipnis sustained the oblique injury during a fourth-inning at-bat against the Angels on April 29 and, considering the nature of the setback, knew it would take time to regain his feel at the plate.
"It's always going to take some time," Kipnis said. "Any time you take an extended period of time off, you're not going to be able to just jump right back in there and have your timing. So it's going to take four days to a week before you feel like you're good. It's like Spring Training again, where you haven't swung in a month and then you see live pitching again.
"I think we're doing all right. We're having good at-bats and swinging at the right pitches. We might not be getting all the results we want right now, but we're still making a couple adjustments at the plate. I think it's going all right."
Allen shows knack for ninth-inning effectiveness
ARLINGTON -- Cody Allen has been seeing more and more of the ninth inning of late. Following his sixth save of the season on Sunday, the Indians reliever was asked if he was getting used to handling some of the closing duties.
"Yeah," Allen said. "We'll see how this plays out."
Allen was referring to the fact that Cleveland does not have a specified closer at the moment. After removing John Axford from that role on May 10, Indians manager Terry Francona named Allen, Bryan Shaw, Scott Atchison and Marc Rzepczynski as options for the ninth, indicating that their usage would depend on game situations.
Francona has stuck to that approach, though Allen has seen most of the save opportunities during Cleveland's recent stretch of close games. Dating back to May 30, each of Allen's five appearances have included no hits allowed and a save collected. That represents the longest such streak in Indians history, trailing only Jose Mesa, who had six no-hit saves in six straight outings in September of 1995.
Allen has a 2.70 ERA with six saves and 33 strikeouts through 26 2/3 innings (31 games). Entering Monday, the hard-throwing righty had a 0.69 ERA (one earned run in 13 innings) with 16 strikeouts and two walks in save situations and a .162 opponents' batting average when pitching in the ninth inning.
Francona reiterated Monday that Cleveland still has not reached a point where Allen is considered the team's closer.
"No, I think that one of the strengths of our bullpen is actually not doing that," Francona said. "It's pitching guys when they best fit."
Francona then noted that Allen has been particularly good against left-handed hitters (.386 OPS against), while Shaw has been very strong against righties (.355 OPS against). The same applies to the left-handed Rzepczynski (.311 OPS against left-handed batters) and the right-handed Atchison (.478 OPS agianst righties).
"We try to let them face the most amount of guys [who match up well]," Francona said, "or, if we're trying to put an inning out, who could best put it out? And then we go from there."
Quote to note
"There's times when you're going to challenge, knowing that the odds are probably against you, but you don't have anything to lose. There's been a few times when we know it's iffy, but why not?"
-- Francona, on using instant-replay challenges
• Francona noted that the plan remains unchanged for rehabbing players Nick Swisher (15-day disabled list due to left knee injury) and Zach McAllister (15-day DL with back soreness). Swisher is slated to play games with Double-A Akron on Tuesday and Wednesday. McAllister is scheduled to start for Triple-A Columbus on Tuesday. Both players could rejoin the Indians during the upcoming weekend series in Boston.
• First-base prospect Jesus Aguilar, who was optioned back to Triple-A Columbus on Friday, launched a home run in his first at-bat back with the Clippers on Sunday. The 23-year-old Aguilar hit just .188 in eight games with Cleveland, but has hit .291 with eight homers, 22 RBIs and a .912 OPS through 43 games for Columbus this year.
• Cleveland reliever Vinnie Pestano has posted a 2.14 ERA and 1.14 WHIP with 28 strikeouts against seven walks in 21 innings since being sent to Triple-A Columbus on April 9. Entering Monday, Pestano was riding a streak of 8 2/3 scoreless innings for the Clippers. The righty has yielded just one earned run in his last 14 1/3 innings.
• Outfield prospect Tyler Naquin -- selected in the first round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft -- went 2-for-4 on Sunday to increase hit hitting streak with Double-A Akron to 10 games. Naquin has posted a .316/.373/.426 slash line with 14 stolen bases, 16 extra-base hits, 23 RBIs and 44 runs through 59 games this season.