CLEVELAND -- Jason Kipnis does not look like the type of ballplayer who would post eye-popping power numbers. As this season shifts toward its third month, however, the Indians' young second baseman is leading the club in home runs.
Hitting coach Bruce Fields is not wasting much time wondering why.
"The ball jumps off his bat," Fields said. "You don't ask why. You just let him play."
There is an explanation behind Kipnis' early-season surge, though. There is a kind of science to the second baseman's swing, which generates surprising pop for a player generously listed at 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds. Fields said Kipnis' power is the result of quick hands and sound mechanics with his lower half.
When everything is in sync, Kipnis becomes a versatile offensive weapon.
"He's got really good bat speed," Fields said. "Obviously, he has good hand-eye coordination, but he uses his legs. He uses his lower half. His body is coordinated with his swing to a point where everything works together perfectly and allows him to create that maximum bat speed.
"His swing sequence is really, really good. That maximizes his legs, his lower leg use, and he's got those quick hands to go with it. Add that up, and that's why you see what you're getting."
Heading into Thursday's off-day, the 25-year-old Kipnis leads the Indians in games (50), at-bats (200), total bases (90), hits (56), runs (34), RBIs (30), stolen bases (11), home runs (eight) and triples (three). He is hitting at a .280 clip with a .342 on-base percentage and a .450 slugging percentage in his first full season.
Among American League second basemen, Kipnis ranked first in RBIs and stolen bases, second in homers, third in hits and total bases, and fourth in on-base plus slugging percentage (.792).
"I don't think anything he does offensively surprises people here," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "He's done that everywhere he's gone. Maybe you see his size and you don't think he can do it, but he's got such a short stroke and he puts backspin on the ball pretty good, and his ball just continues to go."
Hafner could return at start of second half
CLEVELAND -- It took just a half-hour to repair the damage within Travis Hafner's ailing right knee on Thursday. It will now be at least a month before the Indians have their veteran designated hitter in the lineup again.
"We are going to miss the big guy," Indians manager Manny Acta said on Wednesday. "He's a presence in our lineup."
Hafner underwent a right medial meniscectomy at the Cleveland Clinic on Thursday's team off-day. The 30-minute procedure was performed by Dr. Rick Parker and Dr. Mark Schicendantz, and the Indians indicated on Wednesday that the expected recovery time remains 4-6 weeks.
Cleveland placed Hafner, who will turn 35 on Sunday, on the 15-day disabled list prior to Wednesday's game against the Royals. It is possible that the DH could return before the end of June, but the six-week mark aligns with the July 9-12 All-Star break. That being the case, there is a chance Hafner is held out until the start of the second half.
Through 39 games this season, Hafner has hit .242 with six home runs, six doubles and 23 RBIs for Cleveland. After hitting .357 with a 1.081 on-base plus slugging percentage over his first 12 games of the season, Hafner posted a .189 average with a .693 OPS over his next 27 games prior to the injury.
Hafner is under contract for $13 million this season and would become a free agent this winter if the Indians decline his club option, as anticipated. Hafner would be owed a $2.75 million buyout under that scenario.
This marks the sixth stint on the disabled list for Hafner over the course of the past five seasons. Hafner has previously been shelved due to right shoulder issues (2008, '09 and '10), as well as right oblique and right foot injuries ('11).
Indians head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff did not believe this latest setback would have any lasting effects.
"It won't have any long-term consequences," Soloff said on Wednesday.
WMMS offers monthly Friday Night Baseball
CLEVELAND -- The Indians will be offering an additional way to listen to the team's games on the radio for the remainder of this season.
On Thursday, Cleveland announced that the organization will offer Friday Night Baseball on WMMS 100.7 FM on the first Friday of each month for the rest of the regular season. The partnership with Clear Channel Media and Entertainment will begin with Friday's home game against the Twins.
The new partnership will allow Indians games to be simulcast on their flagship station WTAM 1100 AM, as well as 100.7 FM on select Fridays over the final four months.
The three games featured under the agreement will include the July 6 home game against the Rays, an August 3 road contest against the Tigers and a Sept. 7 road tilt against Minnesota. Each game begins at 7:05 p.m. ET, with the exception of the 8:10 p.m. ET start for the September game against the Twins.
Quote to note
"I've been in this game 35 years. I've seen guys like him throughout my tenure in the game, but it surprises you when you have guys like him who can do those things. When you watch him, you're like, 'Man, that's pretty good.' The ball jumps off his bat. That's the beauty of it."
--Indians hitting coach Bruce Fields, on Jason Kipnis' surprising power
Indians closer Chris Perez enjoyed a strong showing in May. In the season's second month, Perez saved 10 games in as many chances, posting a 1.59 ERA over 11 1/3 innings in 12 appearances. The closer struck out 13, walked three and held hitters to a .143 average in the month of May.
Based on a 600 at-bat season, Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis is on pace for 24 home runs, 33 stolen bases, 90 RBIs and 102 runs. The only Indians second baseman to achieve at least 20 homers, 30 stolen bases, 90 RBIs and 100 runs in a single season is Roberto Alomar (1999 and 2001).
Indians pitchers finished May with a 4.77 ERA after posting a 4.10 ERA in April. Cleveland's rotation has gone 1-5 with an 11.89 ERA (37 earned runs in 28 innings) and 46 hits allowed over the team's past six games. In the 10 games prior to that stretch, Tribe starters went 5-1 with a 2.31 ERA (17 earned runs in 66 1/3 innings) and 50 hits allowed.