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Chisenhall’s Health Key to His Next Level of Development

| On 22, Mar 2013

During Spring Training the DTTWLN staff will profile and examine the coaches and players that make up and are vying to be part of the 2013 Cleveland Indians—A Team With A New Direction. Today, we examine one of the players that will need to take their game to the next level if the Indians plan to contend in the American League Central Division this season.

By Mike Brandyberry

What a difference a year makes.

A year ago, Chisenhall was fighting for a job with Jack Hannahan and struggling. Eventually, the job was lost and he started the 2011 season in Triple-A Columbus. This spring however, Chisenhall entered camp as the Tribe’s starting third baseman. This time year, there is no competition.

“It makes all the difference in the world,” Chisenhall said during an interview on Spring Training Daily. “I’m coming in this spring, making sure I get my work in and taking care of my body, so it’s a different mindset coming in. I’m not looking over my shoulder. I still have to play hard and play the game the right way.”

Chisenhall’s 2012 was a roller coaster ride from start to finish. After two months in Columbus, Chisenhall was a Memorial Day promotion and seemed to be finding his place in the Tribe lineup while battling Hannahan and Jose Lopez for playing time. He hit .286 with two home runs and nine runs batted in over 21 games in June, but June 29 shattered what looked to be the start of a strong second half. He was hit on the wrist in Baltimore by Troy Patton, sending him to the disabled list and putting the rest of his season in jeopardy. Returning to the Indians by season’s end became the new goal.

“That was my goal all along last year was to get back, even if it was a game,” Chisenhall said. “I just kind of wanted to exceed expectations and I did that and played well and it was encouraging for me.”

Chisenhall made it back for more than a game. He made it back for 19 September games, hitting .257 with two home runs and seven runs batted in. With Lopez already gone from the Tribe’s roster and Hannahan taking a back seat, Chisenhall was able to play free and easy without pressure in the final month. That, combined with still being limited in his swing made the game seem simplified.

“When I came back I was kind of limited,” Chisenhall said. “I couldn’t do the things I normally did in the box. I didn’t feel like I had the whip of the bat. The strength wasn’t 100% there as what I normally feel. Having to back off did me a favor. I was just trying to get the barrel on the ball. I couldn’t handle certain pitches I normally swing at, so it helped me zone in.”

After originally agreeing to play in the Dominican Winter League to try and make up some of the lost at-bats when he was out for nine weeks, he changed his mind and decided to remain in the U.S. with his wife and young child and prepare for 2013.

“I don’t think baseball was my issue ending the season,” Chisenhall said. “I think my wrist and getting my body ready for this year was the issue. I just prioritized and made that issue. I feel good about the issue I made and hopefully it works out.”

Chisenhall came to camp ready. He’s put on an extra 15 pounds of muscle since the end of last season for what he hopes will be his first full season in the big leagues. Indians Manager Terry Francona has Chisenhall slated to be the everyday third baseman, likely hitting in a much deeper batting order.

If Chisenhall can stay healthy, he has the potential to not just be a starter but someone who can surge the Tribe to the next level. Likely hitting in the bottom of the third of the order, his 16-22 home run potential gives the Tribe a chance to have a power filled batting order from the top to the bottom.  His offensive production and potential could directly impact the Tribe’s offensive production.  While Chisenhall will likely still see an off day against a tough left-handed pitcher, his offensive production is far greater than veteran replacement Mike Aviles.

Clear, cut choice over a veteran. Potential to have a major impact on the Tribe’s offense.

What a difference a year makes.

Photo: Chuck Crow/Cleveland Plain Dealer