Fourteen thoughts for the 14 hits the Indians amassed Tuesday at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.
1. Third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall two-run home run to center field in the fourth inning couldn't have come at a better time. Chisenhall jumped on the first pitch from D-backs starter Trevor Cahill. The ball traveled at least 400 feet. General manager Chris Antonetti was in the stands. Coming into the day, Chisenhall was batting .222 in seven games.
2. The home run had to remind Antonetti what the Indians liked about Chisenhall when they drafted him in the first round in 2009. Chisenhall ended the day 2 for 4 and carrying a .273 average.
3. Although his attitude has been good about his battle with Carlos Santana for the third base job, Chisenhall needs to show some fire, do something to prove to the Indians how much he wants it. The home run may have been the start of that.
4. To me Chisenhall has seemed tentative since a Troy Patton pitch fractured his right arm in Baltimore on June 29, 2012. When he returned in September/October of that year, he hit .257 with two home runs. Last year for the Indians, he batted .225, although he did hit 11 home runs. He was much better at Triple-A Columbus (.390 with six homers).
5. I was sitting in the stands that night in Baltimore. (I will never forget because the temperature at game time was over 100 degrees. Any jewelry I was wearing that wasn’t real gold was dripping green on my white shorts.) A friend and I were two rows back on the third base line. I could tell by the sound when Chisenhall was hit that it was a serious injury, even though the fan behind me was giving him grief for leaving the game. Afterward we saw him in the bar of the team hotel, his arm in a sling. I can see where there might be mental trauma from that night.
6. But Chisenhall’s career, at least with the Indians, seems to be on the line this year. It is time for him to fight for it.
7. Manager Terry Francona said Tuesday morning that the third base decision may go into the regular season. “April 1 is kind of an artificial deadline,” Francona said. “We don’t have to set the playoff roster. We’ve got a long season ahead of us. Opening Day is a big day, but it’s not the final day.”
8. That could mean the Indians want to give Santana more time to relearn the position he played in 58 games over four minor league seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Since 2006 he’s seen action in six games there, all in A ball. Or they want to give Chisenhall time to break loose at the plate.
9. If Chisenhall opens the season as the starter at third, that takes away the position on the 25-man roster saved with Santana as the third baseman/backup catcher to Yan Gomes. But the Indians may have no other choice.
10. On another note, Francona does not seem to care that he probably won’t have any big-money reliever in the bullpen. “A lot of times salaries don’t correlate with production, it’s how much time you have in the league,” he said.
11. He also doesn’t seem to care if the Indians don’t break camp without clearly defined players to pitch the seventh, eighth and ninth innings. “If you have three guys who are going to make the all-star team...” he said. “We’ll see how it shakes out. What I don’t want to have is when the phone rings guys are surprised. That’s doesn’t help them. I’ll try to call down there early and tell (bullpen coach Kevin Cash), ‘This is what we’re thinking.’”
12. Starter Justin Masterson twice benefited from double plays turned when the Diamondbacks were practicing the hit and run, one a 9-4-6, the other a 9-3. He was ready for the grief he would get from right fielder Jeff Francoeur. “I don’t know if I’ve seen that many, but I’ll take it. I know Frenchy’s going to make me hear about it for a while,” Masterson said of Francoeur. “He wasn’t expected to do much work out there. It was perfect. Get behind in the count, get a nice little line drive to him and they’re trying to do the hit and run. I’ll take those all day.”
13. Even Francona enjoyed some of the strategies the Diamondbacks tested. “The 3-1, that was a delayed steal. We thought that was interesting,” he said.
14. Salt River Fields at Talking Stick is considered the gold standard of the new spring training parks. Walking into the complex, it looks like a nature preserve with plants everywhere. The lawn looking like the putting green at the Masters. The Rockies’ and Diamondbacks’ training facilities are behind right and left field, respectively. The best part of it for me was the view of the mountains most of the way around the stadium.