Tribe Notes: Indians option Plutko, Kipnis injured, Luplow emerging

The middle of the infield is suddenly a big question mark

James Rapien
March 21, 2019 - 5:23 pm
Mar 13, 2019; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis (22) throws to first base after forcing out Milwaukee Brewers third baseman Hernan Perez (14) at second during the fourth inning at Goodyear Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Joe Cam

© Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

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Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – The Indians sent pitcher Adam Plutko to Triple-A on Thursday. The starting rotation is locked in, which made the move inevitable. 

"He'll get in his five day starter routine," manager Terry Francona said. "He's a kid that probably is wise beyond his years. The last couple years he's been up and down. He's really been that guy that's kind of bounced around and he's handled it. We kind of told him that. We said if you wouldn't have been able to handle it, we probably would've had to find somebody else.

"I have no doubt he'll go down and do his thing and be ready when there's a need."

The Indians' starting rotation is arguably the best in baseball with Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Mike Clevinger and Shane Bieber. Francona said the organization likes the idea of having Plutko ready to go just in case any injuries were to occur. 

Speaking of injuries, second baseman Jason Kipnis felt some tightness in his calf and will undergo an MRI on Thursday. The Indians could be forced to start the season without their starting shortstop and second baseman. Francona didn't want to speculate on the severity, but Kipnis is an important piece, considering the lack of depth behind him.

"If he can't play, that would impact things," Francona said. "That's why the first step is to get an image just to see what's going on in there, rather than ask the medical people to guess because of where we are in spring training."

Eric Stamets suffered a strained left hip flexor on Wednesday. It isn't considered serious and he could play this weekend. Francona says the Indians' medical staff called it "mild" and added that Stamets could play on Thursday if he was needed.

Frankie's Progress – The Indians met with the medical staff on Thursday morning to discuss Francisco Lindor's progress. Frankie is expected to meet with the medical team as well. The Indians want everyone on the same page with his rehab. 

"We're not going to slow him down on purpose, but we do want him to play this season without dragging that leg around," Francona said. "If that means three days to a week extra, as hard as that is, if it's the right thing to do then it's the right thing to do. We say it all of the time – you can't just do the right thing when it's convenient."

The Indians are being extremely cautious with Lindor, which is wise. The last thing they need is a setback that would force him to miss more time. Lindor is expected to play around seven innings in a minor league game on Thursday. 

Luplow's Case – Jordan Luplow has started to emerge over the past 10 days. The outfielder has posted a .171 batting average this spring, but he's settled in after a rough start. 

"He's starting to swing the bat way better," Francona said. "His first couple weeks he was pressing. We see it happen with new guys all the time. I remember the time he got his first hit, you could just see like he took an exhale and we were kind of laughing because we're not looking at batting average, we're looking at approach and things like that. he definitely looks more confident the last week. He's hit some balls right on the nose.

"It looks like he's starting to feel more like himself."

Not only does Luplow have a chance to make the roster, but he could potentially start on Opening Day. If Hanley Ramirez doesn't make the team, then Carlos Santana would likely be the designated hitter and Jake Bauers would play first base.

That may give Luplow a chance to show what he can do with Bradley Zimmer still recovering from shoulder surgery and Carlos Gonzalez getting back into shape in the minors.  

Opening Day – The Indians haven't named an Opening Day starter. It will either be Kluber or Bauer, but Francona said he'll wait a few more days before he makes a decision.