Cleveland (92.3 the Fan) – The Indians activated OF Lonnie Chisenhall (shoulder) from the 10-day disabled list on Thursday, and in a move that surprised some, optioned CF Tyler Naquin to triple-A Columbus to make room.
Also coming as a bit of a surprise, Chisenhall will start in center on Thursday in lieu of Naquin, despite logging just one big league start at the position in his career.
Manager Terry Francona says he is unsure of how long the experiment will last, but it comes by recommendation of his trusted bench coach, Brad Mills.
“Millsy has kind of been in my ear for the last year telling me how good he thinks (Chisenhall) would be in center. The couple of times we played him in center, he’s done nothing to make you feel any different,” Tito said. “When we were in San Antonio, he played center. I remember, with the view you have, his jumps were – he was off the ball like a good center fielder. It really stuck out.
“Again, we’ll see where it goes. We don’t have to be tied to anything, but it may help us defensively, and he can always play right. So we’ll see.”
Chisenhall is coming off of a rehab stint in which he spent time in Akron and Columbus, most recently posting an 0-for-3 night with a strikeout for the Rubber Ducks on Wednesday.
The 28-year old said he is ready for his return, as well as the shift defensively.
“So I know I played a few games out there, and they encouraged it last spring and this spring. As much as they need me to be out there, I can be out there,” he said. “You’re able to see the ball a little bit better through the strike zone than you are the corners. So I’m working on anticipating some balls and just making sure that I’m not giving up on a few things.”
While Naquin has had his struggles, Francona maintained that his demotion had more to do with Abraham Almonte’s play and versatility.
The skipper said that his staff stressed over the decision, but ultimately decided that Almonte being a switch hitter gave the team more flexibility off of the bench, especially with Michael Brantley’s recovery.
Almonte has also been increasingly patient at the plate.
“Having tough decisions because guys have played well is good for the organization, and I think we are grateful for that,” Francona said. “So many times you are talking about any player going down, there is also a flip side where somebody is doing something good.
“I think Abe, his game is showing that he is paying attention to detail, he is working hard, giving himself a chance to be a good player.”
The move also gives Naquin the opportunity to get at-bats every day, something that he would not have been promised with the big league club.
“I don’t think coming off of the bench necessarily suits Naquin right now,” Francona said. “Nobody is giving up on him being an everyday player. We talked about a lot of stuff, trying to get back to the guy we saw in May and June and July last year.
“I thought he showed a lot of maturity, because we knew this was going to be a hard one for him. It was hard for us.”
Injury to injury
Second baseman Jason Kipnis’s road back to being fully healthy took another setback on Wednesday during his rehab appearance in Akron. Already dealing with a shoulder strain, Kipnis was lifted from the game following his first plate appearance after being hit on the hand by former Indians farmhand Justus Sheffield.
The removal was precautionary, and Francona said Kipnis only suffered a bruise.
The all-star will miss a few days, and Francona said Saturday seems like the best case scenario for his return to game action.