Kipnis set to take another step in comeback

Jason Kipnis had finger surgery in the offseason.  

John Locher/AP

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Jason Kipnis will get his first at-bats in a spring training game on Saturday as the Indians face the Dodgers.

Kipnis missed the first couple days of Cactus League games after continuing to rehab from offseason surgery to his left ring finger.

"You’re always excited to get your first day back out there," Kipnis said. "You get those nerves and jitters but it’s a fun game and to get back between the lines. The results right now don’t mean anything though."

At the beginning of spring training Kipnis was unrestricted with defensive work and throwing, but the final hurdle was taking live batting practice. Kipnis is unable to fully bend the ring finger, but he still is able to completely grip the bat.

Terry Francona said during his morning availability that they could have played Kipnis a couple days earlier but decided not to rush things.

"He’s worked hard and the hitting has come quick. Now it will be fun to watch him get ready for the year," Francona said. "We’ll watch his swings and if he ever needs more or less at-bats we can do all of the above. We want to help him get ready for the year."

Kipnis is trying to bounce back from a disappointing 2014 in which he batted .240 with just six home runs and 41 RBI. After signing a six-year, $52.5-million extension that was announced before the home opener, Kipnis missed most of May due to an oblique injury and the last couple weeks of the season due to hamstring problems.

Add to that the ring finger injury and a bout with food poisoning during a trip to the Dominican Republic, you could say that last year was Murphy’s Law for Kipnis.

"I’ve gotten over the mental hump but it’s not going to do much good looking back," he said.

Corey Kluber will get his first Cactus League start of the season and work three innings with Zach McAllister following and working the fourth through the sixth. Both pitched on Tuesday as Kluber was in a simulated game and McAllister went two innings against the Reds, allowing a run on three hits while striking out three of the eight batters he faced.

Among the other Tribe regulars in the lineup are Michael Brantley, Carlos Santana, Lonnie Chisenhall, Yan Gomes and David Murphy.