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."
Ubaldo pondering playing winter ball
MINNEAPOLIS -- Ubaldo Jimenez feels that pitching during winter ball, even a handful of innings, has helped him in the past. That is one reason why the Indians are considering allowing the starter to play in his native Dominican Republic this offseason.
"We want to have the discussion with him," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said, "and weigh the relative benefits and risks around it. If it's something that he feels is important for him heading into next season, and feels he'll benefit from it, we're certainly open minded to that."
On Sunday, Jimenez said that he is currently planning on suiting up for Tigres del Licey at some point during the coming winter. If Licey makes it to the postseason, Jimenez said that is when he would probably pitch for the ballclub.
Jimenez, who did not participate in the Dominican Winter League last offseason, believes working in games for Licey helps prepare him better for the early stages of Spring Training.
"Especially two years ago," Jimenez said. "It gets me ready to go to Spring Training. This year, I got to Spring Training and then I had to get ready. The years before, after I [played] winter ball, when I [got] there [I was] already ready."
Jimenez, 27, has gone 10-11 with a 4.49 ERA in 30 starts between the Rockies and Indians this season. Cleveland acquired the right-hander for a package of four players, including top pitching prospects Alex White and Drew Pomeranz, prior to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Last season, Jimenez went 19-8 with a 2.88 ERA in a breakout campaign for Colorado.
"Before he came over here, he expressed some interest in doing it," Indians manager Manny Acta said of the possibility of having Jimenez pitch over the winter. "He did it [two years ago], and he felt it helped him out. We're going to look over all those possibilities.
"If it does help him come into Spring Training to work on whatever, we're fine with it."
Helping matters is the fact that Jimenez projects to finish this season with fewer than 200 innings, after logging at least 218 in each of the past two seasons.
"That plays into it some," Antonetti said. "But, I think, ultimately what we want to try to do -- our whole focus -- is to try to help players to be in a position to be successful the following season. Some guys feel that winter ball is an important part of that."
Tribe finalizes Thome deal with Twins
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Indians brought Jim Thome back to Cleveland once already. Whether or not the team will try do so again this coming offseason remains undetermined.
First, Thome has to decide if the time has come to hang up his spikes or if he wants continue climbing the all-time home run chart for another season. Indians general manager Chris Antonetti believes Thome will find a job if he wants one.
"I think it's really in Jim's hands," Antonetti said. "If Jim wants to play next year, I certainly think he'll have that opportunity. He's demonstrated this year that he continues to be a productive player when he's out there.
"Obviously, he's universally respected throughout the game. He not only brings a tremendous amount on the field, but a tremendous amount off [it]."
On Sunday, the Indians announced that they have given the Twins $20,000 to complete the Aug. 25 trade that sent Thome from Minnesota to the Tribe. The 41-year-old Thome, who has 603 career home runs, will be eligible for free agency at the end of the season.
As things currently stand, Cleveland already has a full-time DH under contract for 2012 in Travis Hafner, who is set to earn $13 million next year. The Indians acquired Thome while Hafner was on the 15-day disabled list, and the veteran hitters are splitting the DH duties down the stretch this season.
Carrying both Hafner and Thome next season might not be realistic.
Quote to note
"Congratulations to them. They did it the right way with that incredible run that they've had over the last month or so, especially beating us and the White Sox the last 12 games that we played them combined. They did it by beating us head to head. That's the reason they were able to clinch it with two weeks to go."
--Indians manager Manny Acta, on Detroit winning the American League Central
Acta indicated that the team is expecting to recall right-hander Zach McAllister from Triple-A Columbus to start one of the games during Tuesday's day-night doubleheader against the White Sox. McAllister has gone 12-3 with a 3.32 ERA in 25 starts for the Clippers this season. He is 0-1 with a 12.27 ERA in two previous outings for the Indians this year.
Starter Josh Tomlin (right elbow) threw off the mound in a bullpen session on Saturday without any issues. He is slated to throw a simulated game in Cleveland on Tuesday and, barring a setback, could be activated to start one of the games in the Tribe's doubleheader against the Twins on Sept. 24.
Antonetti said that he and Acta will hold one-on-one meetings with Cleveland's players during the upcoming homestand to discuss this year and the coming offseason. Said Antonetti: "It gives us an opportunity to reflect back and then look forward."
Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera received a routine day off on Sunday for the Tribe's game against the Twins. Cabrera went 4-for-5 on Saturday, after going just 4-for-39 over his previous 10 games. The shortstop has hit .233 in the second half compared to .293 in the season's first half.