CLEVELAND -- The way Jason Kipnis sees it, things could not get any worse this April than they did in April 2013. In order for the second baseman to add a trip to the All-Star Game to his career resume last summer, first he had to dig out of a deep first-month hole.
Kipnis' early-season slump this year hardly seemed like a setback in comparison.
"The way I put it is, I set the bar so low last April that it's kind of gravy here on out," Kipnis said with a laugh. "Even with my average not being that high, I'm having good at-bats, swinging at the right pitches, not chasing too many."
During Wednesday's 5-3 win over the Royals, Kipnis delivered the decisive blow with a two-out RBI double in the seventh inning. Heading into Thursday's tilt against Kansas City, the second baseman had a .279 average and an .881 OPS over his past 12 games.
On the young season, Kipnis was batting .243 with three home runs, five doubles, 10 RBIs, 11 runs scored and three stolen bases through 21 games as the No. 3 hitter. Prior to his recent 12-game turnaround, though, he opened the year with a .194 average and .688 OPS in his first nine games.
While going through the initial struggles, Kipnis focused on the success that was hard to see in the box score. The second baseman said he has improved a lot in that regard, finding positives in some at-bats that ultimately turned into outs.
"Absolutely," Kipnis said. "Before, I would rather take a swinging bunt [single] than a line-drive out, but you're starting to learn there are quality [at-bats] and there's a right way to go at the situational hitting. The three-hole comes with some responsibility and I think I'm handling it well so far."
Kipnis also knows now not to worry too much about a gradual start.
Last season, Kipnis hit .200 in April and saw his average drop to .189 in early May. The second baseman then hit .340 to pull his season average as high as .301 by the beginning of July. That extremely strong offensive push convinced former Tigers manager Jim Leyland to add Kipnis to the AL All-Star team.
"He has less far to climb this year," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He really dug himself a hole last year and he climbed all the way out of it. He's always a threat. Every time. Whether it's left-handed or right-handed, because he can hit the ball all over the field, he can hit the ball out of the ballpark, he can beat you with his legs.
"I don't really look up and see what Kip's batting average is, because we want him hitting all the time."