Posted on September 17, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
In a phrase that has become all too familiar for them, the Cleveland Indians have just seen their postseason chances take a hit. The Tribe has lost yet another player to injury. This time, it’s second baseman Jason Kipnis who has been all but ruled out for the rest of the 2019 season and postseason after fracturing the hamate bone in his right hand.
Kipnis appears to have suffered the injury while taking a swing during Sunday’s win over the Twins. He said he felt discomfort on a swing-and-miss earlier this month and then felt a similar sensation on Sunday after a swing-and-miss. Despite finishing the at-bat and hitting a double, Kipnis was removed from the game the next time his spot in the lineup came up.
“He took that one swing and you probably saw it, he kinda grabbed it,” Indians manager Terry Francona explained after Sunday’s game. “He waved us off and then he actually hit the double but then he got looked at after the inning and (head athletic trainer James Quinlan) just said, ‘Get him out.'”
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An MRI performed during Monday’s off-day revealed the broken hamate bone. Kipnis is now the second infielder the Indians have lost to the same injury. A broken hamate bone sent Jose Ramirez to the Injured List in late August. The Indians haven’t given up hope of Ramirez returning at some point this year, but there’s no specific timeline in place.
Officially, Kipnis has been ruled out for the next four to six weeks while the bone has time to heal. If the Indians make a deep postseason run, there’s a chance Kipnis would be able to return if the injury heals in four weeks. But it’s unlikely he’d be ready to play after a month on the shelf, and so the odds of Kipnis being active, even if Cleveland were to make the World Series, are slim to none.
Losing the 32-year-old Kipnis is a significant hit for the Indians. On the season, he’s hitting .245 with an OPS of .715. Those aren’t eye-popping numbers, but he’s been a little better during the second half of the season. Plus, Kipnis doesn’t have many peaks and valleys, making him a reliable part of the lineup. He also plays steady defense at second base and has close to 100 postseason at-bats, which is experience the Indians would surely want if they make the playoffs.
As was the case when Ramirez got hurt, the Indians don’t have a lot of infield depth to replace Kipnis. Yu Chang has seen a majority of the playing time at third base but hasn’t produced much offensively. Mike Freeman, who has also seen time at third base, is an option to play second base. The Indians have also called up Andrew Velazquez, who started at second base in Tuesday’s game against the Tigers. But he has just four hits in 22 big league at-bats. Utility man Ryan Flaherty is the only other option the Indians have in the infield right now.
To put it another way, having Kipnis and Ramirez out simultaneously is a huge challenge for the Indians. Cleveland began Tuesday 1.5 games behind the Rays for the second Wild Card spot in the American League. While that’s a small deficit to overcome, the Indians have just 12 games left in their season. They are also missing several key players both from their pitching staff and their every day lineup. Losing Kipnis just adds to the difficulty and gives the Indians longer odds of reaching the postseason in 2019.