With Kipnis out, Gonzalez gets starting chance

With Kipnis out, Gonzalez gets starting chance

OAKLAND -- One of the defining traits of the Indians last season was their resilience. When something came up that negatively impacted the roster, Cleveland seemed to unearth a surprising solution. A series of such events helped the Tribe pull off an incredible run to the World Series.

The Indians are hoping for some of the same good fortune right now while second baseman Jason Kipnis recovers from a strained right hamstring on the disabled list. With Kipnis out, rookie Erik Gonzalez will have an opportunity to garner regular at-bats at second base over the next few weeks.

"The first choice is never to have guys get hurt," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "But that doesn't mean you're going to lose. Erik, it's a good chance for him. The one thing you know is he always catches the ball. You're getting an elite defender, and he's actually been swinging the bat pretty well."

Gonzalez, 25, has been highly regarded by the Indians for the past few years, but the emergence of Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez, combined with Kipnis being a mainstay at second, blocked him from regular playing time in the Majors. Earlier this season, Gonzalez settled into a utility role for the Indians, offering depth for every infield position and an emergency option in the outfield.

Gonzalez's solo homer

Through 25 games, Gonzalez was batting .286/.298/.446 with two homers and nine runs scored in 58 plate appearances. His 94 weighted runs created plus indicates that he has performed six percent below league average offensively, but Gonzalez has also offered above-average defense at multiple positions off the bench.

Given Gonzalez's age and lack of experience, his showing in a sporadic role has been solid.

"Most guys that ascend to the Major League level are playing every day regularly in the Minor Leagues," said Chris Antonetti, the Indians' president of baseball operations. "So, when they come up to the Major Leagues in a part-time role, it's not something they're used to. They have to figure out what routines they need to adopt each day that will allow them to prepare, even for those days when they might not be starting or playing.

"It takes a little while for a young guy to work on that. Erik's done a really good job being prepared for the opportunities he's had so far, and he's made the most of it. Hopefully, that will continue."

Gonzalez was looking forward to the chance to show what he can do with regular playing time.

"I'm happy with that," he said. "I've worked all my life for that, for playing in the big leagues, playing every day. I feel really good right now."

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.