Chisenhall Battles Back Through Injury To Make Final Impression Before 2013
By Mike Brandyberry
Even for a highly-touted prospect like Lonnie Chisenhall, becoming a full time starter in the big leagues can be tougher than it seems.
After a tough spring training and being optioned back to Triple-A Columbus, Chisenhall had been recalled on May 28 and was beginning to solidify himself in the Tribe lineup. With the offense sputtering at times, June was becoming Chisenhall’s best month as a big leaguer. He was hitting .286, with two home runs and nine runs batted in during the month of June.
“I was starting to swing the bat well,” Chisenhall said. “I was feeling good in the box and starting to play pretty consistently. Unfortunately, that stopped pretty quickly for me.”
On June 29, Chisenhall was hit on the right wrist by the Baltimore Orioles Troy Patton. The hit-by-pitch broke Chisenhall’s right ulna bone, resulting in surgery and sidelining the budding third baseman for eight to 10 weeks of the season. Despite the devastating injury to his season, Chisenhall never had a doubt that he would return this season.
“I just kinda eye-balled it on the calendar to see where ten weeks fell during the season,” Chisenhall said. “I knew I’d get at least two weeks in. Getting a full month is just a plus.”
Chisenhall flew home from Baltimore and had surgery the next day in Cleveland. The Indians’ team physician left his vacation early to come home and operate on Chisenhall, using four screws and a plate to stabilize the bone. The injury was similar to the one suffered by Asdrubal Cabrera in 2010, when he collided with Jhonny Peralta while chasing a ground ball.
“I was in a cast for a week or 10 days,” Chisenhall said. “Once the cast came off, I immediately started regaining range of motion and strengthening.”
He didn’t begin swinging a bat until the seventh week of his rehabilitation, but began taking ground balls and infield during batting practice at the end of August. Soon after, Chisenhall was on a rehabilitation stint with the Double-A Akron Aeros. It wasn’t just any rehab stint though, the Aeros were in the divisional playoffs of the Eastern League.
“It was fun to be a part of that,” Chisenhall said. “I wasn’t there just to get my work in. I was trying to do what I could to help them win. It means a lot to guys down there to win championships. Those guys were excited and playing for something.”
Chisenhall played in three of the five games of the series, including driving in a key run in a 2-1 victory in Game 4. The Aeros were facing elimination for their second straight game.
“I had a couple good RBI’s and played good defense,” Chisenhall said. “I definitely didn’t hurt the guys by any means.”
Now back in the Indians lineup, the organization and the young third baseman are trying to make up for the time he missed. Chisenhall is getting opportunity to play nearly every day this month, especially against right-handed pitching. He is still trying to find his consistency—the consistency and timing he thought he had in June—but has had success at the plate since his return. In just 11 games back with the Tribe, he’s hit two home runs and driven in five.
“I don’t feel like I missed a significant amount of time,” Chisenhall said. “My timing has been a little hit or miss, but I’ve been able to fight through that and still have competitive at bats and see better pitches and have a better approach. I’m still a work in progress though.”
Chisenhall has signed to play winter ball in the Dominican Republic to try and make up for some more of his missed at bats. The increased opportunity gives him a chance to prove himself ready to assume the starting third base position next April. Most likely the Indians will cut ties with veteran Jack Hannahan this offseason and the job will be the youngsters to lose next spring. Chisenhall isn’t worried about open positions or proving anything, just getting healthy and prepared for 2013.
“I’m just continuing to progress and make sure my wrist is healthy for next year,” Chisenhall said. “I’m not trying to prove anything to anyone. I believe in myself and that’s all I need.”
Photo: David Maxwell/Getty Images