CLEVELAND: Manager Terry Francona has said many times and he did again Tuesday that the Indians optioned third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall to Triple-A Columbus “to let him take a deep breath and get his swing in order.”
Apparently, Chisenhall took those instructions seriously. He returned to the Tribe on Tuesday with a Triple-A batting average of .390 (41-for-105), with eight doubles, two triples, six home runs and 26 RBI in 27 games.
Granted, the International League is not the majors, but how many minor-leaguers flirt with .400 for 100 at-bats. Chisenhall did more than flirt. For a couple of days, his batting average stood at .402.
Moreover, since May 29, Chisenhall has batted .467 (28-for-60) with eight doubles, two triples and two home runs in 16 games.
Minor-league numbers don’t necessarily translate to the big leagues, so Francona isn’t looking for Chisenhall to light up the record book.
“With Nick Swisher not playing, it gives us options at first,” Francona said. “And we have a lot of right-handers coming up [going against us]. Maybe he gives us a little jolt.”
Chisenhall has been trying to win the everyday job at third base since he came to the big leagues in June, 2011. He was stymied by injuries or a surprise contender (Jack Hannahan) the first two years, but this season was supposed to be clear sailing.
It was, until the schedule began to play out and Chisenhall struggled. When he was sent to Columbus on May 13, he was batting .213 with three homers and 11 RBI in 26 games.
“Some people are notorious slow starters; they know it,” Francona said. “Getting through that first month can be difficult. When you don’t have much of a track record it’s harder, especially at this level. Once you do it, it’s easier. You have something to fall back on.”
Francona noted a change in Chisenhall shortly before he was optioned.
“At the end, you could see it started to wear on him,” Francona said. “That happens to young players. It can happen to older players.”
It’s beginning to feel like Chisenhall has been around forever, but he is only 24.
“I think he has room to grow,” Francona said. “He’s still a work in progress.”
Now that Chisenhall is here, how will Francona use him? He will be at third most of the time, which means Mark Reynolds will either play first when Swisher doesn’t or be the designated hitter, which was his assigned role when the season began.
If Swisher’s shoulder remains an issue, Reynolds will be the regular at first, though Carlos Santana can relieve him either at first or at designated hitter when he isn’t catching.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at email@example.com.