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Chisenhall fired up for opportunity with Bucs

'If a team wants you ... that definitely resonates,' says veteran outfielder
December 20, 2018

PITTSBURGH -- Lonnie Chisenhall thought this might be an uncertain offseason. A year ago, some veteran players had to wait until Spring Training to sign. And he only played 29 games last season, none of them after July 1, due to calf injuries.But a few days after free agency began,

PITTSBURGH -- Lonnie Chisenhall thought this might be an uncertain offseason. A year ago, some veteran players had to wait until Spring Training to sign. And he only played 29 games last season, none of them after July 1, due to calf injuries.
But a few days after free agency began, the Pirates reached out to Chisenhall's agent. They were interested, and they were serious about it. On Nov. 27, the two sides finalized a one-year contract. Not only did Chisenhall quickly find a new home after 11 years in the Indians organization, but he also found a team willing to bet on him as an everyday player to start the season.
"The last thing you want to do is go around knocking on people's doors and begging to play," Chisenhall told MLB.com in a phone interview during the Winter Meetings. "If a team wants you, they're showing interest, that definitely resonates. ... I'm excited about the opportunity.
"It's exciting. When somebody wants you, it kind of puts a smile on your face and lights a fire underneath you."
The Pirates were just as fired up about getting Chisenhall. General manager Neal Huntington has pursued a similar type of player this offseason, adding young veterans loaded with bounce-back (or step-forward, in some cases) potential. In Chisenhall's case, the primary question is his health.
Balky calves limited Chisenhall, 30, to 111 games over the past two seasons. When he was healthy, he hit at a high level -- .297/.368/.503 with 13 homers -- and played solid defense in the outfield.

"He's at a time in his career where he also feels an edge and a want-to. ... There's more traction to it than before because he's been off the field some," manager Clint Hurdle said. "When this man has been on the field, the bat has played. The versatile defender has played. There's experience and there's playoff experience. There's good team experience, being a teammate. So he brings a lot of intangibles as well as skill sets to the game that can complement our club."
What about his health? Chisenhall said he tweaked his training and supplementation, and he's felt "great" since he was cleared in September. After spending most of 2018 stuck on the sidelines, he's ready to prove himself on the field.
"That was the tough part," Chisenhall said. "I felt like I made some good adjustments offensively, kind of maturing and understanding things where I can take that next step. Then everything slammed on the brakes the second half of '17 for me."
The Pirates intend to rely on Chisenhall in right field until Gregory Polanco is fully recovered from September surgery on his left shoulder. At this point, the end of Polanco's recovery timeline is unclear; it could be as early as mid-April or as late as mid-June. After the past two years, Chisenhall is well-acquainted with the fluid nature of rehabilitation.
Whenever Polanco returns, Chisenhall may move around the field as a super-utility player. He's played all three outfield spots and both corner-infield positions in the Majors, and he said he enjoys taking early grounders with middle infielders. His versatility was part of the appeal to Pittsburgh.
"There's always an emergency at some point during the season. The last thing you want to do is be terrified," Chisenhall said. "I make sure I'm dotting my i's and crossing my t's, especially during the spring when Polanco's working his way back and getting close."
With a job secured early in the offseason, Chisenhall has plenty of time to prepare for the season -- and enjoy the rest of the winter with his family, including three children under 6 years old.
"The offseason's really busy. Always have something to do," he said, laughing. "It's just daddy day care, really."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and read his blog.