Chisenhall returns as Indians' third baseman
Reliever Langwell optioned to Triple-A Columbus to clear roster spot
CLEVELAND -- As Indians third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall spoke to media members in the clubhouse, he peeled a sticker off a fresh batting practice cap and placed it on his head.
It must have been nice to replace the Columbus Clippers' "C" with the block "C" for Cleveland.
The Tribe recalled Chisenhall on Tuesday from Triple-A and optioned reliever Matt Langwell to Columbus. Chisenhall started at the hot corner and batted seventh against Kansas City.
"When we sent him down, we wanted him to kind of take a deep breath, get his swing in order, and he certainly did that," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Maybe he gives us a little jolt while, same time, he just plays his game. I think he did a really good job of going down and doing what you ask him to do."
Chisenhall, 24, was slated to be Cleveland's everyday third baseman this season. After a slow start that included a .213 batting average through 26 games, the club demoted him to Triple-A on May 13.
Chisenhall flourished for Columbus. Over 27 games, he hit .390 (41-for-105) with eight doubles, two triples and six home runs. He notched 26 RBIs while scoring 21 runs. Chisenhall also compiled a .456 on-base percentage and .676 slugging percentage.
"I try not to get too mechanical when hitting," Chisenhall said. "It's hard enough as it is, so I keep it simple and just get the barrel to the ball and things happen. That's how I've always approached it. Confidence is usually a big factor with me."
Did Chisenhall gain some confidence while bashing the baseball at Triple-A?
"I did," he said. "I mean, swinging the bat well brings confidence. Once it gets going, it's a little bit of a snowball effect."
Chisenhall is aware of how that snowball effect can roll in both directions. This time around, he's focused on avoiding putting too much pressure on himself while trying to string together quality at-bats.
Shortly before he was sent down, the third baseman's offensive shortcomings were beginning to wear on him, according to Francona. "He'd go out to third and he was thinking about his hitting," the skipper said.
Chisenhall can't afford to be too absentminded on the diamond. With the Indians, he committed four errors in 26 games. Things were even worse at Columbus, where Chisenhall was charged with eight errors in 27 contests.
"Defense does not come as easily to me as offense has," Chisenhall said. "I always focus on defense and getting my work in. It's something I've got to continue to get better at. Every day I go out there, I work as hard on my defense as I do on my offense, because I need to."
Francona said Chisenhall's defense is "still a work in progress" -- as is the case with many young players. Regardless, the Tribe is planning to start Chisenhall at third base often, especially with Mark Reynolds taking over first base while Nick Swisher is out with a sore left shoulder.
"We want Lonnie to be a big part of what we do moving forward," Francona said.
That would be fine by Chisenhall, who made his Major League debut with the Indians two years ago. In 135 Major League games, he's batting .250 with 15 home runs and 49 RBIs.
"It's exciting to come up," Chisenhall said. "You want to come up and help the team. It's still early in the year. We have a good opportunity to make a run for the playoffs. It's not quite as life-changing as it was in 2011, but it's definitely a positive for me to get back and contribute to the team what I can."
Francona likes catcher Santana's athleticism
CLEVELAND -- Indians manager Terry Francona was asked about Carlos Santana's prowess behind the plate on Tuesday, a day after a wild pitch went through his legs and gave Kansas City the go-ahead run in the ninth inning of its 2-1 victory in the series opener.
In 43 games at catcher, Santana has been charged with four passed balls and 29 wild pitches have gotten away from him. He has also committed two errors, while throwing out just four of 30 runners on stolen base attempts.
Specifically, Santana's ability to block balls in the dirt was brought into question on Tuesday.
"He's very athletic," Francona said. "He moves laterally about as good as anybody you're going to see.
"At times -- and again I'm not a catching instructor, but I listen to Sandy [Alomar Jr.] talk -- he works from up to down sometimes instead of down to up, which you want, like all infielders, too. And they try to stay on him about that. But he's actually very athletic."
Indians pitchers are averaging .67 wild pitches per game with Santana behind the plate. That number falls to .31 in games caught by Yan Gomes, the Tribe's backup.
For further comparison, Detroit's Alex Avila has caught 48 games, during which time there have been five passed balls and 16 wild pitches. With Avila at catcher, the Tigers have averaged .33 wild pitchers per game.
Entering Tuesday, Cleveland had uncorked a Major League-leading 38 wild pitches. No catcher in the game has been behind the dish for more wild pitches than Santana.
On Monday, the Royals and Indians were tied at 1 in the ninth. On a 1-2 pitch to Miguel Tejada, Tribe reliever Matt Albers bounced a curveball that got past Santana, allowing Elliot Johnson to sprint home for the go-ahead run.
"It scooted on him," Francona said. "I think he felt really bad when the game was over. You go back and look at it, it kind of skidded on him. ... He thought it was going to come up and it didn't."
In the third inning of Tuesday's game, the Royals scored a pair of runs on two wild pitches from starter Ubaldo Jimenez. The first one moved runners to second and third. Then, after a run-scoring groundout, the second one enabled Alex Gordon to go the final 90 feet from third base to home plate.
Quote to note
"I don't know. How do you know? That's part of the fun of young players. He's got a gorgeous swing. He's got tremendous bat speed. I thought he got himself into some positions, before he got sent down, where he couldn't show his bat speed. It's there. No, I think that's part of the excitement of young players is you don't know what they're going to grow into. And you can't force it. You do that, you make mistakes. So, let 'em play and see how good they get."
-- Manager Terry Francona on what type of hitter he expects Lonnie Chisenhall to be.
• The Indians signed their 13th-round pick, Sicnarf Loopstok, on Tuesday, bringing their total number of signed picks from the 2013 First-Year Player Draft to 14. Loopstok, an Aruba native who speaks five languages, primarily plays catcher but also appeared at second base and third base for Western Oklahoma State.
• Ronny Rodriguez, an infielder for Double-A Akron, was named the organization's Minor League Player of the Week for June 11-18. The 22-year-old hit .435 (10-for-23) with five RBIs and five runs scored. He also assembled a .440 on-base percentage to go along with a .696 slugging percentage. Rodriguez is ranked by MLB.com as the No. 4 prospect in Cleveland's farm system.
• Right-handers Blake Wood and Chris Perez are scheduled to make rehab appearances for Double-A Akron on Tuesday. Perez has been on the 15-day disabled list since May 27 with a right shoulder strain. Wood is recovering from Tommy John surgery in May 2012.
Mark Emery is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.