Jason Kipnis has played 800 career games at second base and 11 in centerfield. So it makes perfect sense that he started in center Thursday night for the Cleveland Indians in Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the New York Yankees. Right?
Maybe it’s not conventional — putting a 30-year-old middle infielder in the most demanding outfield position — but Kipnis quickly proved he belonged in center. Check out this catch he made in the third inning to rob Chase Headley of a potential extra-base hit. The Indians won the game 4-0, taking a 1-0 lead in the series.
Does that look like a man who’d only played 11 games in centerfield? Certainly not. His starting pitcher, Trevor Bauer, certainly thought it was an important moment too:
Bauer on the Kipnis catch in the 3rd – "I think that's the biggest play of the game, if he doesn't catch that, it's a double" #Indians
— Matt Loede (@MattLoede) October 6, 2017
The move was mostly out of necessity and it also proves that Kipnis is a total team player. When Kipnis was on the disabled list, the Indians found themselves a nice infield alignment with MVP candidate Jose Ramirez at second and Giovanny Urshela at third. Kipnis, one of the Indians’ veterans and team leaders, probably could have demanded his spot back and the Indians would have shifted Ramirez back to third. Rather, Kipnis went with what was best for the team.
And with Bradley Zimmer, the Indians’ normal centerfielder, out for the season with a broken hand, Kipnis said, “Hey, I can try centerfield.” He had played outfield in college, after all. He’s a good bat to have in the lineup. A veteran presence to have on the field. And, as it turns out, Kipnis can pull off a pretty great diving catch in center too.
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