Jason Kipnis has had a memorable start to his big-league career. Called up on July 21, Cleveland’s top prospect delivered a bases-loaded walk-off single for his first hit — and he’s been making history ever since. The 24-year-old second baseman hit home runs in four consecutive games, a feat never before achieved in a rookie’s first two weeks.
Kipnis talked on Wednesday about his never-to-be-forgotten 14 days just hours before hitting home run No. 4, at Fenway Park.
Kipnis, on his first two weeks in the big leagues: “It’s been hectic and it’s been crazy. At the same time it hasn’t been anything out of the ordinary. I think I’ve done a good job of slowing the game down as fast as I could, to the point where it’s just baseball. I haven’t over-hyped anything. I haven’t been overwhelmed by the fact that I’m in Fenway Park. That said, with the ballparks I’m playing in — and the fans — it’s unbelievable.
“The first game was a blur. It went by really fast and it didn’t feel like a real baseball game to me. Now things have slowed down and I’m starting to get my swing back a little bit. Things are starting to get better.”
On his reaction to Orlando Cabrera getting traded: “At first, it was almost put off to the side because we kept hearing about the Ubaldo [Jimenez] trade talks. A lot of people didn’t even know about the trade at first. It was like, ‘Hey, did you hear Orlando got traded, too? Oh, really?’
“I never got to talk to him too much. For all that stuff about his presence in the locker room, you’d have to talk to the other guys on the team. I was only here for about a week before he was traded. I’m sure I wasn’t his favorite player, but he handled it professionally.
“[The trade] was a little bit of confidence boost. It was like, ‘OK, these guys really believe in me; it’s time to step up, meet the challenge and reward them for the faith they’re putting in me.’”
On fellow-rookie Lonnie Chisenhall: “Lonnie has been one of my good friends as I’ve come up through the organization. We’ve come through the chain together, and having him in the locker room has helped me get accustomed — to get comfortable. He was here [first], so I’ve bounced ideas off of him, and asked questions to help me fall in line faster and not step out of bounds. We talk about everything, including stuff that’s completely non-baseball related. But a lot of what we talk about is hitting.
“We’re pretty similar as hitters. We like to have the same approach. You find guys you can work with in the cages, and he’s definitely a guy I can work with in the cages. We have similar ideas of how to go about hitting when we’re facing certain pitchers, and having that same mentality makes it easy to work with each other.”
On his top-three highlights: “Number-one has to be the first hit, the walk-off single. Number two is probably the home run here at Fenway, off of [Josh] Beckett. Number three is maybe the double play I turned a couple of days ago against Kansas City. It was a diving play in the hole, spinning on my knees to throw it to second base. It was really cool, because I had never done that in my career and never even expected to do that.”
On ranking a defensive play over his first career home run: “Coming from a position change [from the outfield], defense is something I really take pride in. It’s something I’ve spent a lot of time with, trying to adjust as fast as possible. I haven’t wanted defense to be an excuse for holding me down — from making it here — so I’ve put in a lot of effort. I take pride in my defense.”
On breaking into the big leagues during a pennant race: “In a way, it’s harder because everything is more under the magnifying glass. Everyone has to really buckle down and play at a divisional-race pace. You have to step up and elevate.
“It’s easier because this experience can only lead to more success down the road. And the pressure kind of goes away if you’re not coming in to be the man. I’m just here to help this team go in the same direction it’s been going the whole year. I’m trying to help finish off what was started before I got here.”