Tribe mulling internal options with Kipnis out

Tribe mulling internal options with Kipnis out

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Three weeks. That is how long the Indians have to form their contingency plan for second base, given that Jason Kipnis is a long shot to be ready in time for Opening Day.

On Monday morning, Indians manager Terry Francona noted that he and the front office have already started to discuss possible alternatives for second should Kipnis' strained right rotator cuff take him out of the mix for the April 3 season opener against the Rangers. At the moment, it sounds as though Cleveland is content on finding an internal solution.

All-time Indians Opening Day lineups

"Some of it might be dependent on how long we think Kip's going to miss," Francona said. "If he's going to miss three or four days, or a week, I'm not sure you go out and get a player. We'll be thinking of those things. We already are. I guess the best thing we can do is get a good look at everybody in our camp.

"Sometimes, I think you go out looking, and you have the guy right in front of you."

Kipnis played in Cactus League games on Thursday and Friday, but he is now going through a rehab program after experiencing discomfort again in his throwing shoulder. Francona said on Sunday that the second baseman would be shut down for two weeks.

Kipnis' opposite-field single

The most obvious solution -- no matter the length of Kipnis' absence -- would seemingly be third baseman Jose Ramirez, who came up as a middle infielder. The Indians believe that Ramirez could move to second base with ease, but the team also likes that he has found a home at third. At least for now, Francona said the team's preference is to have Ramirez stay put.

"That's something we're going to talk about," Francona said. "I think our first choice is not to [move him to second], but we'll see."

If Kipnis is not ready for Opening Day and Ramirez remains at third base, Cleveland's main options appear to be Erik Gonzalez (on the 40-man roster), along with non-roster invitees Michael Martinez and Ronny Rodriguez. Those three were already competing for a utility bench job this spring.

The 25-year-old Gonzalez ranks as the Tribe's No. 8 prospect (per MLBPipeline.com) and is a shortstop by trade. Given the presence of Francisco Lindor at short, though, Gonzalez has tried his hand at multiple positions and has received strong reviews from Francona, who called him "Gold Glove-caliber" no matter where he plays.

Gonzalez's homers, singles

Francona likes Martinez, 34, as a bench option because of his experience in the Majors and his ability to switch-hit and handle a variety of infield and outfield positions. That is similar to the kind of role that the 24-year-old Rodriguez has been working on. Francona noted that Rodriguez is the least experienced of the three and has some "maintenance in his swing."

Martinez's stellar defense

Yandy Diaz (No. 10 among the Indians' Top 30 prospects), who is a third baseman and corner outfielder, has experience at second and is currently working his way back from a right groin issue. Diaz could be cleared to return to games by the end of this week, but he is still likely ticketed for Triple-A Columbus to start the season.

Top Prospects: Diaz, CLE

Giovanny Urshela would likely be considered for third base if Cleveland opted to move Ramirez to second for the start of the season.

"If you're looking at a third baseman, that's kind of the logical one," Francona said. "Those are things we kind of need to think through."

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.