ANAHEIM -- Through his frustration, Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis managed to maintain his sense of humor Tuesday night.
Kipnis exited Cleveland's 6-4 loss to the Angels in the fourth inning with a right abdominal strain and will be re-evaluated Wednesday with the hope of avoiding a trip to the disabled list. If Kipnis is forced to miss an extended amount of time, he joked that the Indians probably will be just fine.
"If you've been paying attention," Kipnis said, "a .240 average is not too hard to replace right now."
All kidding aside, Kipnis was clearly upset over being forced to leave due to injury in the Tribe's fifth straight defeat. The second baseman felt a pain in his side and back on the swing that resulted in a double-play groundout against Angels starter Jered Weaver in the fourth.
Kipnis said the discomfort was sharp and immediate.
"I'd never really felt that before," he said. "It almost felt like someone punched me in the back. it knocked the wind out of me, so I couldn't really breathe while I was going down to first base. It wasn't letting go. It's kind of an abdominal strain. It's a little too early to tell. Mild, though, I believe.
"I treated it and we'll see how we wake up [Wednesday] morning and see how it feels. Hopefully it's nothing too long, no need for a DL. That's obviously the optimistic view, but we'll see how it feels."
Indians manager Terry Francona offered a similar assessment.
"The training staff is hopeful that it's more of a cramping-type thing," Francona said. "We'll know a lot more when he shows up [Wednesday] and he doesn't have the adrenaline of the game going and he's had a chance to sleep. We'll know a lot more then."
Through 27 games this season, Kipnis has hit .234 with three home runs, six doubles, 12 RBIs, four stolen bases and 12 runs scored for the Indians. The second baseman was 0-for-2 on Tuesday before leaving the contest against Los Angeles.
Utility man Mike Aviles replaced Kipnis at second base in the home half of the fourth inning. The Indians also have super sub Elliot Johnson, who can handle second base, along with a variety of other positions.
"It's very frustrating," Kipnis said. "In the nicest way of putting it, I despise the DL. I don't like the training room. I don't like being a part of that. It's just not what we need right now. But, the one thing that we can always rely on is the depth of this team. We have very good guys to fill in for me."
Santana feels support after slump-busting homer
ANAHEIM -- After launching a three-run home run against the Angels in the fourth inning Monday night, Carlos Santana received a warm welcome from his teammates in the visitors' dugout. Santana has been appreciative of all the support he has received throughout his April slump.
"They were happy. They give me support all the time," Santana said. "These are my teammates. This is a family. They give me support after I got the hit here. I've had bad moments, but they were happy. They know I can hit and I can help the team."
Santana's teammates were disappointed that his great personal moment came within a 6-3 loss in the opener of this three-game series. The three-run shot off Tyler Skaggs gave Cleveland a 3-1 lead, but the Angels scored five unanswered runs off Tribe righty Justin Masterson to deal the Indians the loss.
"I was hoping we could be victorious," Masterson said, "so we could do nothing but talk about Santana and how great he did right there. That was big. He's been struggling a little bit. To be able to do that, it was big time. Unfortunately, with the loss, it kind of overshadows how good that could've been.
"Hopefully that'll keep him going on a streak over the next few days and few weeks."
The home run snapped an 0-for-12 slump for Santana, who finished 2-for-4 for his first two-hit showing since April 6 against the Twins. Heading into Monday's game, the third baseman had hit just .052 (3-for-58) in his previous 16 games. The three RBIs he collected against the Angels were as many as Santana had in his previous 23 games combined.
On the season, the switch-hitting Santana has hit .140 with two home runs, six RBIs and 21 walks in 25 games for Cleveland.
Through it all, Indians manager Terry Francona has kept Santana in the cleanup spot.
That has meant a lot to Santana.
"Tito supports me and gives me confidence," Santana said. "He hasn't changed anything with me. I feel great. Tito is a good manager. He has experience and he knows what kind of players that he has. I feel so great, because Tito supports me and he gives me energy day by day."
Carrasco moved to bullpen
ANAHEIM -- From the first days of Spring Training, Carlos Carrasco was focused on winning and keeping a job in the Indians rotation. The pitcher accomplished the first goal, but lost his handle on the second after four subpar outings.
Carrasco learned Monday that he will now work out of Cleveland's bullpen.
"I just made the team in the rotation," Carrasco said. "Now, they put me in the bullpen. It surprised me a little bit, but the most important thing is doing my job and helping my team win."
In four starts for Cleveland, the 27-year-old Carrasco went 0-3 with a 6.95 ERA in 22 innings. One problem within those games has been finding success against a lineup multiple times through the order. Entering Tuesday, opposing hitters had a .250 average and .743 OPS in their first plate appearance against him and a .406 average and 1.022 OPS in their second.
Last season, Carrasco posted a 1.32 ERA in eight relief outings for Cleveland.
Indians manager Terry Francona did not know whether Carrasco would have a home in the rotation later this season.
"We really don't know. Things happen, man," Francona said Tuesday. "That's why when we talked to him yesterday, we didn't say he couldn't start, because I don't think we believe that. We just, 'Hey man, for now, you're in the bullpen. Attack it when you're asked to pitch. Help us win. And we'll always communicate with you.
"Even if he was in the bullpen the rest of the year, I don't know that it means he has to be a reliever. You try to do what you think is best for the players and the team and you balance that out. ... This doesn't have to be a career move. It's just, for now, this is what we're doing. We're trying to balance a number of things."
With a team off-day scheduled Thursday, the Indians do not need a fifth starter until May 6, assuming the team keeps its four other pitchers on a normal five-day routine. Right-hander Zach McAllister, who only threw 75 pitches in his outing against the Giants on Saturday, will start in place of Carrasco against the Angels on Wednesday.
Two leading candidates from Triple-A Columbus who could take Carrasco's spot are right-handers Trevor Bauer (3-0, 1.40 ERA, 28 strikeouts, seven walks, .196 opponents' average in 25 2/3 innings) and Josh Tomlin (1-1, 2.77 ERA, 18 strikeouts, nine walks, .211 opponents' average in 26 innings). Francona was not willing to say who might get the nod.
"I don't think it's productive right now," Francona said. "Obviously, me and [general manager Chris Antonetti] and [pitching coach Mickey Callaway], we talked through a lot of things. To be honest with you, I think it's kind of open-ended right now. I think we want to see where we're at. I think there's maybe a lot of factors."
Swisher not in lineup for first time this season
ANAHEIM -- Nick Swisher's name was not on the Indians' lineup card for Tuesday's game against the Angels and the first baseman hobbled into visitors' clubhouse with a significant wrap around his right foot and ankle. It turned out to be a false alarm.
"It's just a shin guard," Swisher said with a laugh. "You have to mold it to your leg."
Indians manager Terry Francona simply wanted to give Swisher, who had appeared in each of Cleveland's first 26 games, a scheduled day off. The manager noted that outfielder Michael Brantley is slated to received his first game off this season on Wednesday.
If second baseman Jason Kipnis is in the starting lineup as expected Wednesday, he will be the last regular to have appeared in every game to that point for the Indians.
"Unless he really was just on fire, I just wanted to [give him a day off]," Francona said of Swisher. "He hadn't had a day off yet. Brantley's not going to play [Wednesday]. Some of these guys have all played every day. I think it'll do them some good."
With the Indians trailing 6-4 in the ninth inning Tuesday, Francona wound up turning to Swisher as a pinch-hitter against Angels closer Joe Smith. Swisher struck out in his only plate appearance on the day.
Heading into Tuesday's tilt with the Angels, the switch-hitting Swisher was batting just .221 with two home runs, seven doubles and 10 RBIs for the Tribe. The first baseman has made strides in the batter's box of late, though.
In his past 11 games, Swisher had hit .302 with six doubles, four walks, three RBIs and a .796 OPS for Cleveland, entering Tuesday. In the first 15 games of the season, leading up to that stretch, he hit just .164 with a .540 OPS.
"I think the one thing Swish has the ability to do," Francona said, "and he's always done this, is he can grind. He'll see a lot of pitches. In the last couple weeks, he's been coming up and off some of the offspeed pitches. That'll change. I also think the more selective he gets, he kind of earns fastballs, and he's been hitting those. That's been good.
"I know I've said it, but the guys that can do it, the guys that have proven that they can do it, as long as they're healthy, they're going to do it. As a manager, if you don't believe in them, that's a very bad message to send."
Quote to note
"The most important thing is I've got to continue pitching. No matter if it's in the bullpen or in the rotation, wherever they put me, I'm going to do my job. I got four starts this year. I think sometimes we had bad starts, but I'll just forget that. Now, they put me in the bullpen. I'm going to do my job there."
• Masterson's fastball velocity has been down early on this season. According to PITCHf/x data, the righty has averaged 91.2 mph with his four-seamer and 89.8 mph with his two-seamer, compared with 94 mph (four-seam) and 91.9 mph (two-seam) in April of 2013. On Monday, Masterson averaged 92.5 mph with his four-seamer and 89.9 mph with his two-seamer.
"It's not a concern for me," said Masterson, who maxed out at 95 mph with his four-seamer during Monday's outing. "I wasn't really checking it. I felt like it was coming out good at times and getting under bats at times. I don't know. The action looks good, so that makes it fun for me."
• Former Indians pitcher Charles Nagy, who lives in California, is on hand for Cleveland's current series in Anaheim. Nagy joined the Indians' front office over the offseason, helped out as an instructor during Spring Training and is currently doing some scouting in Southern California. He will head to Cleveland for the First-Year Player Draft in June.
• On Tuesday, the Indians named Class A Advanced Carolina left-hander Ryan Merritt the organization's Player of the Week for April 21-27. During that time period, Merritt (0.37 ERA on the year) allowed just one unearned run in a seven-inning complete game in the second game of a doubleheader Monday. He gave up four hits with four strikeouts and no walks.
• Swisher's fielding error in the eighth inning of Monday's loss marked 24th error of the season for the Indians, marking the most in the American League. Entering Tuesday, Cleveland had eight errors in its past eight games and 16 errors in its past 15 games.