Posted on September 4, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine

Cleveland Indians Jason Kipnis

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For the second straight season, the Cleveland Indians are making plans to move Jason Kipnis to center field. With the recent acquisition of Josh Donaldson, the Tribe will move third baseman Jose Ramirez to second base. That move will displace Kipnis and force him to move to the outfield. While Kipnis may not be thrilled with the move, he’s going along with it, knowing it’s his chance to stay in the Cleveland lineup with the postseason on the horizon.

A year ago, Kipnis played center field down the stretch and in the postseason in response to an injury to Bradley Zimmer. Knowing he was doing it to help the team made the move a little easier to handle. This time around, the Indians made a move for Donaldson in part because Kipnis has struggled offensively this year. However, Kipnis is trying to maintain a team-first attitude.

“Do I love it? No. But I don’t have to love it,” Kipnis said Tuesday. “That’s the part. I’ve got a job to do. It’s OK as long as all of our goals are the same and that’s to win a World Series for this city and this organization, then you’re not really going to hear too many problems from me.”

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Of course, the move is not yet official. Donaldson was placed on the DL on Monday so he could continue his minor league rehab assignment. He hasn’t played in the big leagues since the end of May due to a calf injury. But the Indians are expecting Donaldson back at some point in September. When that happens, and possibly before Donaldson’s return, Kipnis will once again make the transition to center field.

“I didn’t make it about me last year, I’m not going to make it about me this year,” says Kipnis. “Everyone knows what kind of player Donaldson can be. If he comes in healthy, then I’m excited. I understand their position, that they’ve got to put the best team out there to win this thing.”

However, the difference this time around is that Kipnis may not be Cleveland’s everyday center fielder. He may be an option, but he’s going to have to fight with Greg Allen for playing time. Allen is the superior defensive player, although he hasn’t contributed much offensively this year. He’s hitting just .238 with an OPS of .588.

Based on Allen’s struggles, Kipnis would appear to be the better option. However, the longtime Cleveland second baseman isn’t having a strong season with the bat either. Kipnis is hitting .226 this season with an OPS of .685. With Allen starting to come along offensively the second half of the season, there’s no clearcut choice for center field right now.

“We feel like we’re a better team when Kip’s playing well,” says Indians manager Terry Francona. “I told him, `You have to be our best option out there. And I told Greg the same thing.'”

At this point, there’s little doubt that the Indians will win the AL Central. However, they figure to be underdogs in the American League playoffs. That gives them a little under a month to figure out the lineup that will give them a chance to succeed in the postseason. Only time will tell if that lineup includes Kipnis as the center fielder. But he seems ready to prove himself in that spot all over again.

“I have a job to do and a position to win,” says Kipnis. “When they said, ‘Do you want to go to the outfield?’ It’s always been I’d rather be on the field than not. So if that means the outfield, then so be it.”

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