CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – With Jason Kipnis on the disabled list for the third time this season, and no indication that he will remain healthy, the Cleveland Indians seem comfortable for the moment with moving Jose Ramirez to second base in his stead.
There remains the possibility that the team deals for either of two former Indians in the Mets’ Asdrubal Cabrera or Braves’ Brandon Phillips, moving Ramirez back to third. For the time being, the team may be auditioning the third base spot between Giovany Urshela and Yandy Diaz.
Whether or not either of the pair remain at third in the playoffs will be seen, but Manager Terry Francona seemed to tip his hand on Saturday in regards to who has the lead.
It is obvious that Urshela is the better defender to this point, and he may be among the elite defenders in the league, let alone at his position.
Meanwhile, Francona has spoken to the ideal that they almost view Diaz as an out-and-out liability at the hot corner. That sentiment was drilled home in the early part of the season while Diaz was setting the Cactus League on fire at the plate, and it was only driven home before the 26-year old’s Saturday start.
Francona said that the Kansas City Royals starting a handful of lefties against righty Mike Clevinger slimmed the chances of action at third for Diaz. That being said, it didn’t mean the International League’s leading hitter was not bringing something to the table.
“Hopefully (his presence will) get his bat involved,” Francona said. “That’s the idea.”
Diaz showed his prowess on Thursday in a 4-for-4 night with two doubles and a triple, and would certainly have an edge over Urshela offensively if the former plays to expectation.
But the defensive-minded Urshela has not been a slouch with the bat in his hand as of late. The 25-year old is 4-for his last-9 with a double and five RBI.
“He’s hanging in there at the plate. Whether it’s fouling pitches off ‘till he gets something that maybe he can handle,” Francona said. “But he’s not making quick outs and he’s driven in some runs for us.”
There had been an idea floating around that Lonnie Chisenhall could make a return to the position he broke in at, with the idea of playing third base during his rehab stint on the way back from his calf strain. Francona said Saturday that in his rehab games on Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday, Chisenhall will play left field, designated hitter and center field, but not third.
More than likely, that means the team is comfortable with their options at the position.
In that case, Urshela would most likely start at third until a boost at the plate was necessary. That of course could change should Gio continue to produce offensively.
But for the time being, it remains a case of the AL Central leaders being a team that make their mark defensively.
“For the most part he’s been hovering around .200,” Francona said of Urshela. “But the defense is so important, especially when we rely on our pitching so much.
“And the other thing is, he can hit a fastball. It’s not that he doesn’t have the bat speed, he just gets a little out of the strike zone and gets himself out some times. But he can hit a fastball, so that’s been good.”