Kipnis' Conversion Puts Him In Mix For Cleveland





CLEVELAND—Jason Kipnis is still smiling.

He simply can't help it after enjoying the kind of season he had last year.
From a converted college outfielder to starting second baseman, the Indians' 2009 second-round pick out of Arizona State hit .300 or better at three different levels in his first full professional season, finishing his season with Columbus to help the Clippers claim the International League and Triple-A National Championship.

Farm director Ross Atkins also admitted he was surprised by Kipnis' solid defense at his new position.

"He's that confident competitor," Atkins said. "It's like when you describe Cliff Lee, he sounds like a lot of lefthanded pitchers in that he throws 91-92 mph and has a good breaking ball. But when the game's on the line, there's that fierce competitiveness and that elite confidence."

Recently, the 23-year-old Kipnis sat in a temporary locker in the Progressive Field visiting clubhouse, one of 14 minor leaguers to participate in the team's winter development program, putting him in contention to crack Cleveland's lineup some time in 2011.

"If I get caught up in thinking about it, it will only hurt me," Kipnis said. "That's a decision for the guys up top to make. My job is to force their hand a little bit."
Kipnis' spring training competition includes Luis Valbuena, Jason Donald and Jayson Nix and minor leaguer Cord Phelps.

"We've found there's just a lot less pressure on a young player when they start in the minors rather than have them on the Opening Day roster," Atkins said, admitting "there's a shot" Kipnis could be an exception.

SMOKE SIGNALS

• The Indians signed all four remaining arbitration-eligible players to one-year contracts: shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, right fielder Shin-Soo Choo, closer Chris Perez and lefthanded reliever Rafael Perez.

• The Indians appointed former player and manager Mike Hargrove as a special adviser for 2011. The Indians Hall of Famer will assist the organization in a variety of roles including assisting manager Manny Acta's coaching staff in spring training, joining the SportsTime Ohio broadcast team on select telecasts and serving as a resource for the many business, community and charitable endeavors of the franchise.