The Cleveland Indians will welcome Jason Kipnis back into the fold, sending Brad Miller away. Francisco Lindor is also nearing a return.
Brad Miller’s frustration at being shown the door from the Cleveland Indians 25-man roster is understandable. Among the Tribe’s three middle-infield stopgaps, he’s the only one who was even remotely serviceable at the plate in the absence of Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor.
Unfortunately for Miller, he’s a left-handed hitter on a team already chock full of them, and the Indians just brought another one into the fold in the form of Carlos Gonzalez. With Kipnis set to return to the lineup tonight in Seattle, there was nowhere to put a lefty who can’t play shortstop.
The upside of Miller’s somewhat raw deal is that it signals the light at the end of the tunnel regarding Cleveland’s injury troubles on offense. Whether Kipnis returns to his 2016 form or not, he’s a better option than Miller, or Eric Stamets, or Max Moroff. Slotting him back into the lineup means the Indians are one step closer to placing their best nine on the field.
The real sigh of relief, however, will come when Lindor returns. The heart and soul of the Indians roster will begin a rehab assignment, and it stands to reason that he will rejoin the big league club in short order. Stamets will almost undoubtedly be the odd man out then, with Moroff hanging on as the Tribe’s new Erik Gonzalez.
Outside of a handful of elite pitching performances, one of which was immediately followed by a 60-day DL assignment for Mike Clevinger, it’s been (perhaps unsurprisingly) a rough start to the season for the Indians, even despite their winning record.
Lindor’s return will have just as significant an impact off the field as on it. Maybe too much is made of intangible qualities, but it’s difficult to imagine his presence in the clubhouse not lighting a spark among a group of players badly in need of one.
The Indians have trotted out a skeletal lineup to start the season, but we aren’t far from the day when Lindor, Kipnis, Leonys Martin, Jose Ramirez, Carlos Santana, Carlos Gonzalez, and Hanley Ramirez are all taking cuts together. With the seven of them in the fold, it will be much easier to endure the growing pains of Jake Bauers and Tyler Naquin, and much easier to accept Roberto Perez’s offensive shortcomings in return for his defensive prowess.
Doesn’t that lineup sound better than one in which Terry Francona is forced to start some combination of Miller, Stamets, and Moroff every day? Help is on the way, and with it, so is hope.