The Indians may feel differently, but third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall should be on a plane and heading to Detroit to rejoin the team for the start of an important three game series this weekend.
Manager Terry Francona turned down suggestions made over the past few days that Chisenhall should be called up, going so far as to downplay it by saying that they have not really discussed the matter and the team is more focused on the draft this week.
Whether or not Francona is speaking the truth or putting up a smoke screen, the Indians struggles over the past three weeks - where they have lost 12 of 16 and have fallen to 30-29 on the season - make it an opportune time for some changes. No one is expecting wholesale changes, but the team needs a spark and sometimes a few changes to the roster can help get the team going in a more positive direction again.
One such change should be to recall Chisenhall from Triple-A Columbus.
Chisenhall, 24, was demoted back on May 13th and was hitting just .213 with three homers, 11 RBI and .604 OPS in 26 games in Cleveland. He also had just three walks compared to 22 strikeouts in 94 at bats, and had some struggles in the field with four errors in 58 total chances for a .931 fielding percentage. He was optioned out because his swing was off, his approach at the plate was poor, and his defense was inconsistent.
Since going back to Columbus, Chisenhall has found his swing again and his approach has returned. In 17 games he is hitting a blistering .382 with six home runs, 18 RBI and 1.190 OPS, and has nine walks and 14 strikeouts in 68 at bats. Not only is he hitting and doing so with consistent authority, but that all important walk to strikeout ratio is much improved which shows his overall approach is much more in line with what is expected of him.
In contrast, since Chisenhalls demotion the Indians have inserted Mark Reynolds in at third base and to put it frankly he has been a disaster since moving there. Prior to Chisenhalls demotion, Reynolds hit a red hot .291 with 11 homers, 32 RBI and .996 OPS in 34 games as the designated hitter, first baseman and occasional third baseman. Since Chisenhall has been sent out and Reynolds has become the primary third baseman, he is hitting an ice cold .173 with two homers, nine RBI and .515 OPS in 23 games.
It may just be coincidence that Reynolds is performing poorly at the plate since he moved to third base, but it probably is not. He has long had his struggles defensively, and in his short time at third base for the Indians those problems have surfaced as he is not very good coming in on balls, has an erratic arm, and is just a below average defender overall at third base.
Reynolds ranks near the bottom in baseball in ultimate zone rating (UZR) at -2.3 and over the last five seasons his combined -35.8 UZR is the worst in all of baseball. In contrast, while Chisenhall has his issues defensively as well, he at least has a 1.4 UZR this season in Cleveland and over his brief three year big league career has a -3.2 UZR.
The defense has still been a little inconsistent for Chisenhall as he has seven errors and a .873 fielding percentage in his 17 games at Columbus, but he is still an upgrade defensively over Reynolds.
Chisenhall was also sent out to get more work against left-handed pitching as he was just 2-for-22 against them in Cleveland prior to his demotion. He has had limited opportunities to face lefties as he has just 14 at bats against southpaws in his 17 games with Columbus (4-for-14, 6 K). The struggles are still there against lefties and probably always will be, but right now Chisenhall can really help out the Indians against right-handed pitching at the big league level, something teams face more than 70 of the time.
With the Indians lineup slumping, the Indians should call up Chisenhall to be the regular third baseman and set up a mini-platoon with him and Reynolds. By primarily playing Chisenhall against righties and Reynolds against lefties, it helps reduce the exposure of Chisenhall against left-handed pitching and Reynolds overuse at third base. When Reynolds is not playing third, he can play first base or be the designated hitter.
Some teams elect to tough it out with their guys when they hit a rough patch as a team, and that is admirable that Francona and the Indians may want to do that. But with the team slipping in the standings and the schedule only getting tougher these next several days, sometimes you need to make a move to create that spark.
If Chisenhall comes back and hits like he is expected to and Reynolds moves back to his prior role as a designated hitter and he starts hitting again, the Indians will get more than just a spark to the lineup.