CLEVELAND — Bradley Zimmer was in New York on Monday to be examined by hand specialist Dr. Thomas Graham and will have surgery, but the Indians would not confirm that the center fielder’s promising rookie season is over.
Citing sources, Yahoo.com’s Jeff Passan reported that a broken bone in Zimmer’s left hand that he sustained Sunday night on a headfirst slide into first base will sideline him for the rest of the year.
“I don’t think we’re going to rule anything out until we see what Dr. Graham says,” manager Terry Francona said prior to Monday’s series opener against Detroit. “The only thing we really have is he is being seen today by Dr. Graham in New York. So after he is examined, the medical staff will put something out.”
The Indians will miss Zimmer’s defense and athleticism, but they have depth in center with Austin Jackson, Tyler Naquin, Abe Almonte, Greg Allen and Lonnie Chisenhall.
That list could also include second baseman Jason Kipnis, who is nearing activation from the disabled list and will spend the next week working out in center, according to Francona.
“If he gets to the point where he’s comfortable enough to do it, we might play him out there a little bit just to see how he does,” Francona said.
Kipnis is on the disabled list for the second time with a right hamstring strain and has been limited to 79 games, batting .228 with 11 home runs and 30 RBIs.
“If he’s able to handle it, all of a sudden you go from moving somebody out of the infield — because we’ve got a really good thing going there — to adding his bat in the lineup in center field,” said Francona.
“So, again, it’s not a lock. But the fact that he was willing to try it is really meaningful to us. And my guess is that he’s probably pretty good. He’s so athletic in going to get balls in the air, I think he’s going to have some fun doing it.”
Kipnis, a second-round draft choice in 2009, began his career as an outfielder before transitioning to second base the following year during his first full season in Cleveland’s minor league system. He played center sparingly for Class A Mahoning Valley during his first professional season.
“It will be just reads on the ball. It will be seeing (the ball) off the bat, because it’s been awhile, so I think that will take some time,” Kipnis said. “(I’m) pretty sure I still got it in me, I think I can still do it. I’m excited to see what it is, just as everyone else is.”
According to Francona, this isn’t the first time relocating Kipnis to the outfield has been discussed.
“I think he felt like maybe at some point in his career he would transition that way,” Francona said. “Sometimes when you have a team that’s winning, it certainly helps ’cause guys want to be all-in and help. And it certainly could be a huge addition for us, where on a night when you’re kind of feeling like, ‘Oh, man, we lost our best defender.’ All the sudden, you talk about putting Kipnis in the lineup, a guy that’s made the All-Star team a couple times.
“We’ve just got to get him enough reps where, again, this is all if he could do it, where he’s comfortable and get his swing back. We actually have time to do that.”
Francona said he had no problem with Zimmer’s headfirst slide.
“I know you hear so often, ‘Don’t slide headfirst into first.’ You hear it all the time,” he said. “I disagree. As a baserunner, when you’re running that way and the fielder’s coming this way or the pitcher’s coming this way, sometimes the best way to get to the bag is by sliding. And, yeah, he got stepped on, but you could just as easily blow out an ankle or a knee.
“It’s hard for a runner when you have somebody else coming, you’re really vulnerable. Sometimes I actually think going headfirst is safer. This didn’t work, but he could have just as easily blew his knee out. So I kind of disagree when people say just don’t do it.”
Andrew Miller (patellar tendinitis right knee) threw a simulated game Monday. Kipnis and injured outfielder Michael Brantley (ankle) were among those that faced the left-hander.
“He’s raring to go,” Francona said of Miller, who is on the DL for the second time with the injury and has made only three appearances since July 29. “What I told him we’d do is visit after he cools down and get his thoughts and see what the next step is. But the fact that he’s kind of champing at the bit is really good, because he’s pretty level-headed about doing the right thing. So we’ll see what the next step is.”
Once one of the majors’ worst teams at home, the Indians entered Monday owning the AL’s fourth-best home record at 39-29. They had won seven straight at Progressive Field and 18 of 23 since the All-Star break through Sunday.