Chisenhall Looking To Make The Most of Second Chance With Tribe
By Mike Brandyberry
Second chances are often tough to come by, but early in his second chance it appears Lonnie Chisenhall is making the most of his.
Since being recalled from Triple-A on May 28, Chisenhall is hitting .385, with two home runs and three runs batted in. Friday evening he helped the Tribe take control of the game when he lined a two-run home run off Carl Pavano into the seats. The home run gave the Tribe a 2-0 lead and helped catapult them to a 7-1 victory to open the series against Minnesota.
“I’m just trying to control the bat,” Chisenhall said. “You have good months and bad months and I’ve just kept swinging the bat.”
However, the 2008 first round draft pick has suffered through some ups and downs since he was originally activated by the Tribe on June 28 of last season. After having his contract purchased to open a series against the Arizona Diamondbacks last summer, Chisenhall started hot before hitting a cold streak in July.
Soon after the young third baseman found himself platooning with Jack Hannahan for playing time. Chisenhall often played against right-handed hitters, while Hannahan still played against southpaws. When Hannahan became hot in August, Chisenhall’s playing time nearly evaporated until Hannahan was injured late in August.
“You gotta put the lineup out there that gives you the best chance to win,” Chisenhall said. “I was platooning with Jack (Hannahan) last year and whatever the team needs of its players you have to be willing to do. It was a different experience for me. Playing every day or not playing every day, you gotta go out there and produce. That’s what I focus on.”
Chisenhall would have his best month of the season in September, playing every day and hitting .279, with four home runs and 13 runs batted in.
But as spring training opened, Chisenhall found himself a slight underdog to win the third base job. He didn’t have a strong spring training, hitting .205, but also striking out 16 times while walking only once. With the Indians newfound approach and plate discipline, it would be tough to keep him on the 25-man roster. Chisenhall was optioned to Triple-A Columbus to start the season and work on his discipline and defense. In Columbus, he was able to relax and produce.
“I just worked on having fun. I struggled in spring training and wasn’t having much fun,” Chisenhall said. “I was a little more relaxed and was able to contribute.”
After a nagging back strain to Hannahan led a left calf injury, Chisenhall was recalled for some offensive pop to a struggling offense—just like 11 months earlier. It didn’t take him long to prove his recall a good move.
In his first big league at bat of the 2012 season, Chisenhall roped the third pitch he saw into the Kansas City Royals bullpen on Memorial Day. The home run helped jump start the offense and eventually propel the Tribe to an 8-5 victory.
Like a year ago, Chisenhall was recalled to give the offense a surge, but this time he won’t have to platoon for the short term. Manager Manny Acta has made it clear that Chisenhall will play the majority of the time at third base.
“You always want to be in the lineup every day. You never come in and don’t want to play,” Chisenhall said. “It’s great being in the lineup and you just gotta try and take advantage of it.”
With no known timetable on Hannahan’s return, the opportunity is present for Chisenhall to take the job and assert himself as part of the young nucleus of the Indians.
In the meantime, Chisenhall is trying to enjoy himself and help the Indians keep winning ball games. He feels that’s the key to remaining with the club not just through the month, but for years to come.
“I just want to make the team better,” he said. “If I make the team better, they’ll find a spot for me.”
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images