Tribe opts for Aviles over slumping Chisenhall
ATLANTA -- The lineup card hanging on a door inside the visitors' clubhouse on Thursday had Mike Aviles' name penciled in as the Indians' third baseman and No. 8 hitter. Even with a right-hander on the mound for the Braves, Lonnie Chisenhall understood the decision.
"He's been swinging the bat well," Chisenhall said. "He's starting today and he deserves to start right now. I'm not playing well and he is. If you look at it, he gives us the best chance to win right now. I'm going through some stuff offensively."
Over the past couple of months, manager Terry Francona has done what he could to split up the playing time at third between Aviles and Chisenhall. For the most part, Aviles has started against lefties -- as he did in the first two games at Turner Field -- and Chisenhall has been given the nod against righties.
Francona said starting Aviles three games in a row did not mean he was now the full-timer at the hot corner.
"No, no," Francona said. "Lonnie will play."
As evidenced by his honesty on Thursday, Chisenhall is the first to admit that he has underperformed this season. The 24-year-old third baseman believes he has made adjustments to his swing to a fault, focused too much on trying to cut down his strikeouts and has gotten away from the kind of aggressiveness with fastballs that led to past success.
Through 77 games, Chisenhall is hitting .216 overall with seven home runs, 28 RBIs and a .617 on-base plus slugging percentage. Heading into Thursday's game, he was batting only .086 (3-for-35) against left-handed pitchers and just .127 (7-for-55) overall in August.
"This has been a tough year for me in general," Chisenhall said. "I haven't found something that's really helped me yet. I keep working. I'm getting here early with [hitting coach Ty Van Burkleo]. I'm using video. I'm using all of our coaches. I've tried everything. Every avenue, I'm working on it. It's just been a tough year -- probably the worst of my career."
In a 27-game stint at Triple-A Columbus earlier this season, Chisenhall flashed his potential, hitting .390 with 16 extra-base hits and 26 RBIs before being called back to the big leagues in mid-June.
"You see him go to Triple-A and hit .390, so we know it's in there," Francona said. "And we do, we believe it's in there. But when you come to the big leagues, you deal with so much: advanced reports, sometimes sitting, specialty pitchers, better defenses. Sometimes it adds up to the game not coming as quickly as you want it.
"It'll get there. to his credit, he's working with Ty a lot and he shows glimpses of it. We just want it to be more consistent. It'll get there."
In the eighth inning of Thursday's 3-1 loss to the Braves, Francona called upon Chisenhall as a pinch-hitter for pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez. For at least one at-bat, the third baseman found his swing, connecting on a pitch from reliever David Carpenter for the first pinch-hit home run of his young career.
"Boy, if he can get hot," Francona said. "We're facing three right-handers going into Detroit [this weekend]. If he could get hot, that'd be great."