I've seen a few interesting batting stances over the years, but I've got to ask: What's with Jason Kipnis' horizontal bat while the pitcher sets?
-- Chris K., Albany, Western Australia
It's hardly as odd as Tony Batista's famously awkward-looking stance, but Kipnis' setup at the plate is certainly rare. It's not entirely unique, though. I remember mimicking Mickey Tettleton's horizontal-bat stance during backyard whiffle-ball games as a kid. That's the first player I thought of upon first witnessing Kipnis.
Rod Carew also had a similar approach, though he was crouched lower in his setup than Kipnis. I also believe that Cal Ripken Jr. -- for one of the thousand or so stances he cycled through over the years -- toyed around with holding the bat parallel to the ground before starting his swing.
Kipnis does have a reason for his swing style. A few years ago, Kipnis was having issues with bringing his hands around the back of his head during his load, which created a problem. Before attacking a pitch, Kipnis would have to bring his hands back out front to his swing position, and he had lost valuable time with that extra step.
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One trick for helping Kipnis keep his hands in the right position was to start with the bat horizontal. From there -- with his hands essentially in the right spot already -- he could simply lift the bat to the proper starting point and initiate his swing. It worked for Kipnis in the Minors and has helped now in the Majors.
I was dumbfounded when the Indians recently called up Double-A shortstop Juan Diaz, a rookie with zero big league experience and not even any Spring Training buzz. I understand he was not meant to see even an inning's worth of action -- it was just roster manipulation. Even so, wouldn't someone with experience be a better option just in case. Shouldn't Jason Donald and Cord Phelps both be upset to be passed over, even for a three-day insurance assignment as it was expected to be?
-- John B., Hiroshima, Japan (hometown: Willoughby, Ohio)
When the Indians promoted Diaz from Double-A Akron on May 25, they needed a backup shortstop. At the time, as you mentioned, it was only expected to be a short stay on the Tribe's bench while Jack Hannahan recovered from a back issue. When Asdrubal Cabrera tweaked a hamstring, the move backfired and Diaz was exposed.
Should Cleveland have called up the more-experienced Donald? Probably, but the organization wanted him to stay in an everyday role at Triple-A. Beyond that, Donald was going through some defensive issues at the time with Columbus. As for Phelps, he has experience at short, but has played exclusively at second base this year.
The other option at Triple-A was Gregorio Petit, but he is hitting .206 and is not on the Indians' 40-man roster. With all those factors at play, the Indians felt it was best to promote Diaz, who is on the 40-man roster. And, when it was all said and done, Diaz (.267 average and .353 on-base percentage in five games) did not embarrass himself in the big leagues.
As the July 31 Trade Deadline slowly approaches and the rumors begin to swirl, can you give your insight on the Tribe's plans? Who are they eyeing?
-- Rex H., Cedar Rapids, Iowa
There are currently 19 teams that are either in first place or within five games of first in their respective divisions. With two Wild Cards in each league now, that means there are more teams on the hunt for possible help via trade, and it is harder to know who will be buying or selling.
The Indians' right-handed hitters have labored against lefty pitchers, which has hurt the Tribe's lefty-laden lineup. The biggest hole has been in left field, so it seems a right-handed-hitting outfielder (Minnesota's Josh Willingham fits the bill), or some right-handed bench upgrades, could be high on the Indians' wish list.
Do you think the Indians will make a move to get Adam Lind, who was recently outrighted to Triple-A and removed from the Blue Jays' 40-man roster? He could be a suitable replacement for Hafner at designated hitter.
-- Alastair M., Cleveland Heights
As much as I'd love to be able to use the nickname "A Mighty Lind" again, Lind hasn't been so mighty for a few years. Over the past three seasons, Lind has hit .238 with a .289 on-base percentage and a .709 slugging percentage. He is also set to earn $5 million in 2013. Given his struggles, salary and the fact that he hits lefty, I don't see him being a fit for the Tribe.
Now that center fielder Grady Sizemore can be activated from the 60-day disabled list whenever he's ready, is there any word on where he is in his rehab? I know he's been taking batting practice, but any idea when he might be ready for a rehab assignment?
-- Bryant D., West Mansfield, Ohio
The Indians have been understandably mum on the topic of a timetable for Sizemore. Given his history of injuries and surgeries, it would do Cleveland no good to say Sizemore projects to be ready by X date. His rehab has been a bit slower than expected, but he is taking BP, throwing and is gradually adding running activities. There is still no word about when Sizemore might be cleared for a Minor League rehab stint. That being the case, it is tough to predict when he might be able to return to the big leagues.
How is Hannahan coming along in his recovery from the back and calf injuries?
-- David S., Columbus, Ohio
Hannahan continues to make progress. The third baseman was scheduled to begin a Minor League rehab assignment with Triple-A Columbus on Monday night. Hannahan will likely play a handful of games in the Minors before rejoining the Tribe.
I would very much like an update on 2011 second-round Draft pick Dillon Howard, please. Why isn't he pitching yet for any of the Tribe's Minor League affiliates?
-- Charles K., Augusta, W. Va.
Howard is currently pitching in extended Spring Training. Look for him to join a Minor League affiliate later this season.
Can we get an update on LeVon Washington (2010 second rounder)? I was hoping for a rebound season this year, and he started off on the right foot at Class A (low) Lake County. But he's only played in six games. What gives?
-- Geordy B., Roseland, N.J.
Washington underwent surgery on his right hip on April 30 and the expected recovery period was projected at between two to four months. Washington is currently rehabbing at Cleveland's complex in Goodyear, Ariz.
Washington, who is quite the character on Twitter under the handle @L_wash, tweeted, "OFF CRUTCHES TOMMOROW.. SOME PPL MIGHT NOT BE HAPPY TO SEE THAT.. #WashTime," on June 2.