MINNEAPOLIS -- Jason Kipnis is not about to become complacent. Even though the Indians' rookie appears to have the starting role at second base locked up for next season, he does not plan on thinking that way.
"My mind-set is, it's still up in the air," Kipnis said. "I've got to go out and compete during Spring Training, and I've got to earn that spot again. No one just hands out Major League spots or starting spots. It's something I'm going to be working hard for, and I'll try not to leave any doubt that they want me in that lineup."
Entering Sunday's game in Minnesota, the 24-year-old Kipnis was hitting .299 -- with six home runs, seven doubles, one triple, 14 RBIs and 17 runs scored in 25 games for Cleveland this season. Along the way, he has posted a .352 on-base percentage and a .577 slugging percentage in his first taste of the big leagues.
Kipnis was also riding a seven-game hitting streak since returning from the 15-day disabled list, following a bout with a right hamstring injury. Prior to landing on the DL, Kipnis was hitting .333 with six homers and 10 RBIs over a 12-game stretch from July 31-Aug. 12.
The timing of the injury was frustrating for Kipnis.
"It added to the disappointment," said Kipnis, referring to his hot streak at the plate before hurting the hamstring. "It was like, 'Oh, man.' I was just getting my confidence up. I was just getting comfortable at the plate, getting my swing where I want it to be."
Fortunately, the down time did not damage Kipnis' timing too much.
With his 3-for-5 showing in Saturday's 10-4 win over the Twins, Kipnis raised his average to .345 since coming off the DL. Kipnis' strong performance since rejoining the lineup has made it clear that Cleveland -- still in the playoff hunt at the time of the second baseman's injury -- missed his bat while he was sidelined.
"As soon as he went down, we knew that we were going to miss him, big time," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "He gave us a spark, and he was very consistent with his approach at the plate. He's a guy who hits lefties, righties, uses the whole field and brings energy every day."