COLUMBUS — Jason Kipnis made another step toward returning to the Indians’ lineup as he played seven innings on Saturday and homered in Columbus’ 5-2 loss to Durham.
Kipnis, who has placed on the disabled list on May 2 after straining his right oblique in an April 29 game against the Los Angeles Angels, went 1 for 3 and played seven innings. In the fourth inning, he hit a 0-1 fastball off Durham’s Nate Karns into the left-field seats for a two-run homer that gave the Clippers a short-lived 2-1 lead.
"It was nice to get the ball out of the infield today. It went well," Kipnis said. "I had better at-bats, saw the ball better and my timing was there. My side still feels good and strong, my timing is coming back and I have the legs under me more.
Kipnis, who also cleanly fielded two ground balls on Saturday, played four innings on Friday and went 0 for 2 with an RBI along with helping to start a double play. He will not play on Sunday and have one more rehab game in Columbus on Monday before joining the Indians on Tuesday in Chicago.
"We have some phone calls to make and see what happens," he said. "I’m anxious. I wanted to be back a month ago but you have to be ready and confident to be healthy enough to do it."
Before the game, Kipnis took a steady dose of ground balls during batting practice. He said he still feels a bit rusty fielding but that comes more with the speed of the game and getting timing back.
Columbus manager Chris Tremie said he was also pleased with Kipnis’ timing in his at-bats.
Before going on the DL, Kipnis was hitting .234 with three home runs and 12 RBI in 27 games. He also drew 17 walks.
If Kipnis returns in the next couple days, he could be coming back to an Indians squad that has seemed to hit its stride. The Tribe has won five of its last six, including a sweep of Detroit, and taken two of three this weekend at Baltimore.
"That Detroit series did a lot of good for our team. I think it snapped a lot of guys out of their funks and we’re playing better baseball now," he said.
There’s also another reason why Kipnis might want to get back to play in Chicago. The Northbrook, Ill., native has an 11-game hitting streak at U.S. Cellular Field and has a hit in all but one of the 23 games he has played there. He is hitting .400 (34 for 85) with seven doubles, a triple, five home runs, 21 RBI and 17 runs scored.
When asked why he has done so well in Chicago, Kipnis just said he it is coincidence that it is there and attributed it more to doing well against their pitching staff.
There was also another benefit to Kipnis returning to Columbus for his rehab stint — if the Indians ever hold a Star Wars night they know where to go for a photo of Kipnis dressed up as a Jedi Master. During Saturday’s game, which was Star Wars night at Huntington Park, and the scoreboard had Photoshop images of the Clippers’ players dressed up as Star Wars characters during their at-bats.