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Kipnis a possibility for three spot in lineup

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GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- There is plenty of time remaining this spring for Indians manager Terry Francona to decide on a batting order. If the early exhibition games are any indication, second baseman Jason Kipnis might be given a shot as the team's third hitter.

The Indians have their leadoff man established in center fielder Michael Bourn, and Francona has made it known that he is considering using switch-hitting shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera in the second slot. Kipnis has already been tested out in the three hole a few times.

Francona has not discussed the lineup with Kipnis.

"No, he hasn't," Kipnis said on Friday morning. "I know that we obviously have a great leadoff in Michael Bourn, and I know Tito has been hinting that he likes Cabrera, a switch-hitter, in the two hole. It's almost -- maybe I get the three hole by process of elimination."

First baseman Nick Swisher and catcher Carlos Santana -- both switch-hitters -- are possibilities for the fourth and fifth spots, respectively.

Francona is quick to remind that nothing is set in stone this early in Spring Training.

"I really don't know," said Francona, referring to how the order might shake out.

The Indians skipper has made one thing clear: He wants to split up his left-handed hitters, if possible. That's why a switch-hitter such as Cabrera makes sense in the No. 2 spot behind Bourn, and a lefty hitter like Kipnis would make sense in the third spot.

"I don't want to do the other manager any favors," Francona said. "So, whether a guy hits second or third, to me, it's not that big a deal. I'd rather split up the lefties with a switch-hitter, than go back-to-back and worry about the guy hitting second."

Last season, the 25-year-old Kipnis hit .257 with 14 home runs, 22 doubles, 31 stolen bases, 76 RBIs and 86 runs in 152 games for Cleveland. He served as the No. 3 hitter in 53 games, hitting .269 with five homers, nine doubles and 32 RBIs in that role. Kipnis' .740 OPS as the third hitter was his best mark among his three most frequent batting slots (first, second and third).

Kipnis knows that his status as the lineup's third batter is far from official.

"It definitely can change before the season starts," Kipnis said. "But I like to be there. I think I can have some good at-bats there and create a lot of runs there, but that doesn't mean I'm automatically going to be there."

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