The transition began during batting practice prior to Monday's game against the Tigers, with Kipnis heading to center field to take fly balls. At one point, he made a nice sliding catch. At another, he mimed robbing a home run, while his teammates laughed. The experiment came out of necessity, following an ill-fated headfirst slide by Zimmer in Sunday's 3-2 win over the Orioles, resulting in a fractured fourth metacarpal in his left hand.
Zimmer met with Dr. Thomas Graham, a renowned hand specialist, on Monday in New York, and is scheduled to have surgery on Tuesday morning. While the Indians did not announce a timetable for Zimmer's return, he is more than likely done for the year.
"I don't think we're going to rule anything out until we see what Dr. Graham says," Francona said before Monday's 11-0 win.
In the wake of that development, the Indians were left weighing their options for center. Cleveland has rookie Greg Allen on the roster -- a defensively sound and fleet-footed outfielder recently called up from Double-A. The Indians also have veteran Austin Jackson, along with Tyler Naquin and Lonnie Chisenhall. Abraham Almonte and Brandon Guyer also represent depth options for center.
Then, there's Kipnis, who played outfield in college and during the 2009 Minor League season with Class A Short Season Mahoning Valley.
"I talked to Kip today," Francona said. "We might play him out there a little bit just to see how he does. 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. So again, it's not a lock. But the fact that he was willing to try it is really meaningful to us."
Kipnis understands that the Indians have played well with Jose Ramirez and Giovanny Urshela handling second and third base, respectively, in his absence. Right now, Kipnis just wants to get back on the field in any way possible.
"The competitor in me thinks that if I'm healthy and playing, that we're not even having this conversation," Kipnis said. "But at the same time, you adjust accordingly to the way the year's gone, and with injuries and everything, you just try to fill in where you can. There's no doubt that Josey and Gio are fantastic defenders. I'm not blind. I can see it. They're making awesome plays night in and night out.
"So I've just got to find where I fit in at this point. I think I've still got a lot of good baseball in me, whether it's in the outfield or infield."