ST. PETERSBURG -- All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis has been making steady progress behind the scenes since landing on the disabled list with a strained right oblique.
On Friday, the Indians indicated that Kipnis is scheduled to resume swinging a bat with no contact at some point this weekend. The second baseman was re-examined on Thursday and is considered symptom free in terms of feeling discomfort in daily activities.
Kipnis left Cleveland's game against the Angels on April 29 with the injury, and it was projected that he would need between three to five weeks to rejoin the Indians. That timeframe would have him returning sometime between May 20-June 3.
"The target was very vague, because it's not fair to Kip," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Those things are going to heal when they heal. The point I made is, once it heals, I bet you he comes [back] quick, because he's Kip. That's how I've always felt about it."
Kipnis, who has hit .234 with three home runs and 12 RBIs in 27 games this season, is currently tolerating core-based strengthening without symptoms.
Since taking over for Kipnis, utility man Mike Aviles has posted a .545 (12-for-22) average over seven games entering Friday's contest against Tampa Bay. Over his last 16 games, Aviles was hitting .413 (19-for-46) with three doubles and eight runs for the Tribe.
Francona has been thrilled with how Aviles has stepped right in and contributed with Kipnis out for the time being.
"That's his job," Francona said. "He understands that and I think he relishes it. I think he also knows that we respect him a lot and what he can do."
Cabrera, teammates disappointed over missed cycle
ST. PETERSBURG -- Asdrubal Cabrera reached third base in the eighth inning on Thursday, smiled wide and gave third-base coach Mike Sarbaugh a high five. Cleveland's shortstop looked into the home dugout and saw his teammates going wild.
Cabrera and everyone else in Progressive Field thought for a brief moment that he had completed a cycle in his final at-bat against the Twins. The official scorer then ruled that Cabrera doubled and then advanced to third on a relay throw to home plate to try to stop David Murphy from scoring.
Cabrera was disappointed about the ruling.
"Yeah, a little bit," he said on Friday at Tropicana Field. "It's a thing you want. Before I hit it, Murphy was the one who got a hit with two outs. I just wanted an opportunity to see. He hit a single, so I said, 'All right, I got my opportunity now, so let's see.' As soon as I hit it, I said, 'Oh, I can maybe do it.'"
The shortstop shrugged.
"There's nothing I can do," he added.
The official scorer for the Tribe's 9-4 win over the Twins on Thursday was long-time Indians reporter Sheldon Ocker, who covered the team for more than three decades for the Akron Beacon Journal. Ocker, who retired from reporting prior to this season, felt Cabrera had not advanced far enough beyond second base to warrant a clear triple.
Cabrera finished the day 4-for-5 with one single, two doubles, one home run and three RBIs.
The Indians had no plans on filing an appeal with Major League Baseball to try to retroactively net Cabrera a cycle, which has not been accomplished by a Tribe hitter since Travis Hafner did so against the Twins on Aug. 14, 2003.
"I think that's kind of one of those in-the-moment things," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "It didn't cost him a hit. My own opinion is, I'm not too sure that it isn't a triple. I'm not positive it is, either. I know where Cabby was when the second baseman had the ball, but Cabby never turned around to see if the guy was throwing home.
"He was going all the way for obvious reasons, and I don't think you can assume an out. There's been many times where that throw comes in, the guy catches it and can't get it out of his glove, and it's a triple and there's no error."
Indians first baseman Nick Swisher was upset with the ruling.
"He never broke stride. He never stopped," Swisher said. "It's home cooking, baby. It's Cleveland. You're at home. I don't get it. We were going nuts. It was like the greatest thing ever and then, all of a sudden, it was shot down."
Francona did not agree that a home team should get friendly calls by an official scorer.
"As a player, you want everything in your favor," Francona said. "And I want everything in our team's favor, of course. But that's kind of like asking an umpire, 'Hey, man, we're playing at home. Come on.' That's not going to work."
Versatile Johnson accepts assignment to Triple-A
ST. PETERSBURG -- Indians manager Terry Francona loved having the versatile Elliot Johnson on his bench early on this season. That made for a difficult decision when Cleveland designated the utility man for assignment on Saturday.
Francona now feels fortunate to know that Johnson has decided to stay in the organization.
On Friday, Johnson cleared waivers and accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Columbus for the Indians. Johnson had the right to decline the assignment in order to pursue a job elsewhere, but opted to stay in the Tribe's system.
"I love Elliot," Francona said on Friday. "Elliot comes to camp, so you spend six weeks with a guy, you get to know him, he does everything really well, makes the team. You know full well that things don't work out according to plan very often, and you're going to have to possibly have a conversation that you don't want to have.
"The flip side of that is not getting close to the guys and not enjoying them. I don't think I want to do that, either. I guess I'd rather get to know the guys and enjoy them and appreciate what they do and, if you have to have a conversation and it's not that fun, you can do it honestly. The hope is that, maybe after the conversation is over and they have a chance to kind of clear their head, maybe they do want to stay in the organization."
The 30-year-old Johnson did just that, giving Cleveland an experienced layer of depth at Triple-A. In seven games with the Indians, who used the switch-hitter all over the diamond defensively, Johnson hit just .105 (2-for-19). In parts of five seasons in the Majors, he has hit .215 in 318 games between stops with the Rays, Royals, Braves and Indians.
Francona said he feels Johnson can benefit the players around him in the Minors.
"I think he can benefit our guys here," Francona said. "So, that's an obvious, 'Yes.' He just got caught in a situation where we had moving parts. It happens."
Quote to note
"Of course I wanted a triple. I was hoping. I don't know. It's hard to tell [if it was a triple]. Everybody on the team says it was a triple, and that's what I thought, too. I looked to the dugout and everybody was exciting and jumping. That's why I said, 'Yeah, I did it.'"
--Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, on his near cycle on Thursday
• Indians veteran Jason Giambi, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Monday with a strained right calf, said on Friday that he was feeling much improved. With Cleveland making a wave of roster moves earlier this week, the 43-year-old designated hitter felt it would help the team to accept a trip to the DL.
"I just had to be 100 percent. It was good," Giambi said. "I just needed to take a step back so the ballclub could move forward, basically. ... It was the right decision for the ballclub."
• With Rays left-hander Erik Bedard scheduled to start on Saturday, Francona is considering giving center fielder Michael Bourn (recently sidelined with left hamstring tightness) a day off to rest his legs. Francona said on Friday that he isn't sure that plan is written "in ink" for Bourn. The center fielder missed four games with the issue before returning to the lineup on Thursday.
• The Swisher Family Foundation, which is headed by Indians first baseman Nick Swisher and his wife, JoAnna Garcia, will host kids from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Cleveland on Saturday for a special screening of the new baseball movie, "Million Dollar Arm." The children will be treated to the movie at Tower City Cinemas in Cleveland.
• Veteran catcher Matt Treanor, who was in camp with Cleveland during Spring Training, has retired after nine Major League seasons. The 38-year-old Treanor hit .221 in stints with the Marlins, Tigers, Rangers, Royals and Dodgers in his career. He had not played in the big leagues since 2012, missing '13 due to a knee injury and suffering a left hamstring injury this past spring.