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Chisenhall returns as Indians' third baseman

Chisenhall returns as Indians' third baseman

Chisenhall returns as Indians' third baseman

CLEVELAND -- As Indians third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall spoke to media members in the clubhouse, he peeled a sticker off a fresh batting practice cap and placed it on his head.

It must have been nice to replace the Columbus Clippers' "C" with the block "C" for Cleveland.

The Tribe recalled Chisenhall on Tuesday from Triple-A and optioned reliever Matt Langwell to Columbus. Chisenhall started at the hot corner and batted seventh against Kansas City.

"When we sent him down, we wanted him to kind of take a deep breath, get his swing in order, and he certainly did that," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Maybe he gives us a little jolt while, same time, he just plays his game. I think he did a really good job of going down and doing what you ask him to do."

Chisenhall, 24, was slated to be Cleveland's everyday third baseman this season. After a slow start that included a .213 batting average through 26 games, the club demoted him to Triple-A on May 13.

Chisenhall flourished for Columbus. Over 27 games, he hit .390 (41-for-105) with eight doubles, two triples and six home runs. He notched 26 RBIs while scoring 21 runs. Chisenhall also compiled a .456 on-base percentage and .676 slugging percentage.

"I try not to get too mechanical when hitting," Chisenhall said. "It's hard enough as it is, so I keep it simple and just get the barrel to the ball and things happen. That's how I've always approached it. Confidence is usually a big factor with me."

Did Chisenhall gain some confidence while bashing the baseball at Triple-A?

"I did," he said. "I mean, swinging the bat well brings confidence. Once it gets going, it's a little bit of a snowball effect."

Chisenhall is aware of how that snowball effect can roll in both directions. This time around, he's focused on avoiding putting too much pressure on himself while trying to string together quality at-bats.

Shortly before he was sent down, the third baseman's offensive shortcomings were beginning to wear on him, according to Francona. "He'd go out to third and he was thinking about his hitting," the skipper said.

Chisenhall can't afford to be too absentminded on the diamond. With the Indians, he committed four errors in 26 games. Things were even worse at Columbus, where Chisenhall was charged with eight errors in 27 contests.

"Defense does not come as easily to me as offense has," Chisenhall said. "I always focus on defense and getting my work in. It's something I've got to continue to get better at. Every day I go out there, I work as hard on my defense as I do on my offense, because I need to."

Francona said Chisenhall's defense is "still a work in progress" -- as is the case with many young players. Regardless, the Tribe is planning to start Chisenhall at third base often, especially with Mark Reynolds taking over first base while Nick Swisher is out with a sore left shoulder.

"We want Lonnie to be a big part of what we do moving forward," Francona said.

That would be fine by Chisenhall, who made his Major League debut with the Indians two years ago. In 135 Major League games, he's batting .250 with 15 home runs and 49 RBIs.

"It's exciting to come up," Chisenhall said. "You want to come up and help the team. It's still early in the year. We have a good opportunity to make a run for the playoffs. It's not quite as life-changing as it was in 2011, but it's definitely a positive for me to get back and contribute to the team what I can."

Mark Emery is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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