Chisenhall in battle for third base job

Chisenhall in battle for third base job

Chisenhall in battle for third base job
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Indians manager Manny Acta has described choosing between Jack Hannahan and Lonnie Chisenhall as the starting third baseman as one of the toughest decisions the team has to make this spring.

Acta does not view one as being up against the other, though.

"Lonnie is competing with himself," Acta said on Wednesday. "That's what it is."

What Acta means is that Cleveland already knows what it has in Hannahan. He is one of the best defensive third basemen in the game and can serve as a utility infielder off the bench, if he is not named the starter at the hot corner. Chisenhall, on the other hand, is young and still needs to earn his way on the Opening Day roster.

During Wednesday's 10-2 Cactus League win over the D-backs, Hannahan started and went 1-for-3 with a grand slam in the third inning. Chisenhall replaced him in the later portion of the game and ended 1-for-2 at the plate.

It is Chisenhall's task this spring to prove to the Tribe that he is ready to handle the full-time job in the Majors.

"He's going to have to convince us that he's the guy -- that's plain and simple," Acta said. "If he convinces us that he's ready to be the guy for us, then we'll make that decision. That's what I mean when I say that we know what we have in Jack."

There are two scenarios seemingly at play in the decision. If the 23-year-old Chisenahall wins the everyday job at third base, Hannahan would slide to the bench. The other possibility is that Chisenahall opens the season at Triple-A Columbus, in the event that the Indians decide to stick with Hannahan.

In 66 games with the Indians last summer, Chisenhall hit .255 with seven home runs and 22 RBIs, and he saw both his strikeout and walk rates worsen from his typical Minor League production. Hannahan, 32, hit .250 with eight homers and 40 RBIs in 110 games with Cleveland last season, but hit .368 over the final six weeks of the season.

"He had a better approach, we felt, of not trying to hit for power so much," Acta said of Hannahan's improvement down the stretch. "[He was] just staying up the middle the other way, waiting on the ball, and he did a very good job.

"I think he had a rough spell over there in Cleveland for a while, while he was trying to play through injuries and stuff. Other than that, he had some quality at-bats for us. We feel he's much better than what he's been in the past."

Acta said the process of picking one over the other will likely take until the final days of camp.

"It's going to be one of the toughest decisions we're going to make," Acta said. "But, you know what? At the end of the day, this kid [Chisenhall] is only 23 years old. If he's ready to go, we'll take him. If we don't feel it's best for us and for him, then we won't."