CLEVELAND -- Standing at his locker inside the Indians' clubhouse at Progressive Field on Thursday morning, second baseman Jason Kipnis grinned at the thought of hearing his name announced on Opening Day. It is a moment he has been waiting for his entire baseball life.
"That's going to be a rush," Kipnis said. "That's going to be a thrill for me, and it's going to be something that I'm really just going to bathe in the moment and enjoy it as much as I can. As soon as that's over, it's game time, time to lock in and start this off."
That last sentiment seems to be the collective mind-set for a Cleveland club that believes it can contend for the American League Central crown this season. For Kipnis, that type of mentality is all he has known in his brief time on the big league stage. The young second baseman arrived after the Tribe's rebuilding.
Kipnis is viewed as a key ingredient to the club's chances for contention.
"The team is ready to compete," Kipnis said. "That's what it is. We're going to need some stuff to go our way this year a little bit, kind of stay healthy this time. But it's not so much a rebuilding year anymore, or we have young guys or excuses anymore. It's time to compete."
A year ago, the 25-year-old Kipnis hit .272 with seven home runs, nine doubles, 19 RBIs and 24 runs scored in his 36-game stay with the Indians. A second-round pick by the Tribe in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, Kipnis opens this season as Cleveland's full-time starter at second base.
That will begin with his name being announced in front of a packed house on Thursday.
"I'm excited. Nervous. All of the above," Kipnis said. "I'm looking forward to it. I got my feet wet a little bit last year, but now I'm excited to see what it's like to get back on the field and experience my first Opening Day with the whole city into it, the whole crowd there. it should be a little fun."