With the Cleveland Indians winning the American League championship in 2016, expectations in northeast Ohio are as high as can be.
With these expectations come the worry that sports fans in this area are famous for. That angst popped up for Tribe fans at the end of last week when both 2B Jason Kipnis and starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco were reported to be injured.
Kipnis is dealing with pain in his shoulder area and will sit for two weeks before trying to play again. Skipper Terry Francona said this will put Kipnis on the disabled list for the season opener in Texas.
Compounding the concern on Kipnis is Michael Brantley’s injury. Brantley suffered a torn labrum diving for a flyball in September 2015, and missed virtually all of 2016 with the problem and later developed tricep tendonitis.
So, of course, since Brantley missed most of last year, fans and media alike extrapolate that Kipnis will miss a significant amount of time.
Now, we don’t know the Kipnis’ ailment is minor, but Francona did say Kipnis could DH right now, and could play second too, but the team is taking a precaution. Obviously, it is better for Kipnis to miss the first couple of weeks of the regular season rather than miss a month later.
What is puzzling is the Tribe’s solution to the problem. To most, the obvious move is to put Jose Ramirez back to his natural position, and use someone else (Giovanny Urshela, Yandy Diaz, etc.) at the hot corner.
However, it seems Tito wants to keep Ramirez at third, and play a combination of Erik Gonzalez, Michael Martinez and others at second.
We understand Francona loves Martinez and values his glove, but the guy is arguably the worst hitter in the majors (his career OPS is 507), so you can’t put him in the lineup on a regular basis.
We would love to see Diaz get the first shot. He’s been a .300 hitter in the minors (854 OPS in ’16) and reports out of Goodyear say he seems like he’s one of those guys who could fall out of bad and hit a line drive.
Urshela has a very good glove, but didn’t hit (608 OPS) in his brief shot in 2015. However, he was called up before spending a full season in AAA, and remember, he wasn’t regarded as a top ten prospect in the organization.
Carrasco’s elbow showed some swelling after a lackluster start on Wednesday, and Francona said he will miss a start.
If he has to miss some time, Mike Clevinger should be the choice to replace him, although in the beginning of the year with off days, his absence could be minimized.
Clevinger started some games a year ago, and made the post-season roster, and the front office has slotted him for the “sixth” starter role anyway. It just may be those spot starts come in April instead of the middle of summer.
Carrasco’s elbow didn’t show any structural damage, so hopefully it’s just some inflammation and he will be fine with some rest.
While no team wants injuries, and the Indians are no exception, having players miss some time early in the year, when the schedule has some off days, is better than being out later in the year, as the Indians found out when Carrasco and Danny Salazar missed time in the playoffs.
Fans should try to relax a little and hopefully the injuries to Kipnis and Carrasco won’t result in a lot of time being missed.
Remember though, the Indians overcame Brantley’s injury a year ago to win the AL Central Division, and the starting rotation’s hurts didn’t stop them from making the World Series.