Zoned out

At the onset of Spring Training, the phrase that was floated more than a few times in regards to Lonnie Chisenhall was “strike zone discipline.”

As in, the Indians wanted to see improved strike zone discipline from the third baseman as camp progressed. It was an area he struggled with last season and, so far, it’s again an area he’s struggling with this spring.

After a two strikeout performance in Wednesday’s loss to the Giants, Chisenhall upped his spring total to 12 whiffs against only one walk for Cleveland. That’s not exactly what the Tribe was hoping to see at this point in the schedule.

That said, the Indians have seen similar struggles from fellow youngster Jason Kipnis. Like Chisenhall, Kipnis has 12 strikeouts and only one walk as of this writing. Kipnis has a spot on the team as the starting second baseman. Chisenhall, on the other hand, is competing with Jack Hannahan for the regular role at third.

Indians manager Manny Acta isn’t getting too worked up over the strikeouts just yet.

“It’s kind of hard to work and evaluate that when those guys are not going out there every single day,” Acta said. “At the beginning of camp, it was every other day. Now, you’re trying to find playing time for the other guys.

“It’s a process for them. They’re young kids. They’re not going to get better at it  overnight. We’re going to have to be patient.”

Fair enough, but it’s something to keep an eye on.

Some notes from Wednesday…

  • Hey! I’m back! After a handful of days off — I went to Cleveland, where the warm weather followed — I’m back in Arizona for the stretch run. It was great to go home to see Mrs. MLB and MLB Jr., though. Our boy finally figured out how to climb out of his crib, so yeah, it’s the end of our world as we know it. He’s in a toddler bed now. Glad I was home for that milestone for the little man. Also had fun just relaxing on our back porch, enjoying the lovely weather. And got caught up on the Walking Dead. I can’t believe they killed off so and so whose name I won’t mention in case you haven’t watched it yet!
  • The Indians made a minor move on Wednesday, claiming righty Rick VandenHurk off waivers from the Blue Jays. He wasn’t having a great spring, but it’s another body to throw into the fold for depth. He’ll compete for a bullpen spot. VandenHurk is out of options and is on the 40-man roster.
  • To clear room on the 40-man, Cleveland designated Kelvin De La Cruz for assignment. Talk about a rough spring for the poor lefty. He was originally DFA’d early in camp to officially put Casey Kotchman on the roster. Then, KDLC was traded to Texas for cash. He made one spring appearance for the Rangers and, THEN, Texas sent him back to the Indians for cash. The original cash actually turned into a player to be named later named Davis Stoneburner — a Minor League infielder. Hey, maybe the Tribe will trade De La Cruz to Texas again. We’l find out within the next 10 days.
  • Closer Chris Perez threw 20 pitches in a live BP session this morning. He looked and felt good and his next step is to pitch in Cactus League games, beginning on Friday or Saturday. If all goes well, he could make five or six appearances in preparation for Opening Day.
  • Kevin Slowey was solid through three innings for the Indians on Wednesday, but then he fell apart in his fourth and final frame. Slowey ended with four runs allowed on five hits, included a monstrous homer to Brett Pill. The righty walked three, struck out two and threw a wild pitch.
  • Asked about the fifth starter competition, here was Slowey’s evaluation: “”Obviously, Jeanmar is throwing great. I don’t think there’s anybody who would tell you otherwise. As for the rest of us … certainly each one of us is working towards that. But, if you look at the way Jeanmar’s been throwing, it’s tough not to say, man, that guy’s really getting the job done.”
  • Indians relievers Rafael Perez (left shoulder) and Robinson Tejeda (right calf) returned to Cactus League play on Wednesday. They each logged one shutout inning against San Francisco. Perez struck out two and posted zeros the rest of the way. Tejeda gave up a hit and a walk, but escaped unscathed. Perez is a lock for the ‘pen, if healthy. Acta said he thinks there’s still time for Tejeda to make a push in the competition for the two available bullpen jobs.
  • Center fielder Michael Brantley remains sidelined with a right hamstring injury. Acta said after Wednesday’s game that Brantley would likely be shut down for three to five days before being cleared to resume baseball activities. Cleveland is optimistic that the injury isn’t serious and that Brantley will be ready to go come Opening Day.
  • Left Field Watch: Shelley Duncan belted his team-leading fourth homer of the spring in Wednesday’s game; Aaron Cunningham went 1-for-4 and is hitting .214 on the spring; Felix Pie went 1-for-1 off the bench, but is batting .200 in Cactus League play.
  • Bench Watch: Jose Lopez just keeps getting it done this spring for the Indians. He came off the bench on Wednesday and went 1-for-1 with an RBI single. He’s hitting a healthy .440 in Cactus League play. I’m not sure how they can keep “Lopey” — as Acta calls him — off the roster if he keeps this up.
  • Bullpen Watch: Jeremy Accardo, who is vying for a relief role as a non-roster invitee, turned in another blank frame on Wednesday. Accardo spun one shutout inning, scattering two hits with no further damage. He has pitched soundly this spring to the tune of a 1.50 ERA.
  • Sinkerballer Justin Masterson, the Indians’ Opening Day Man, pitched four innings in a Triple-A game on Wednesday afternoon. We weren’t given his line, but it was noted that he logged 81 pitches in the unofficial outing.
  • Backup catcher Lou Marson has been on a role this spring, hitting .400 to this point. Acta said the team will always “find at-bats for people that are helping us win” but right now Marson projects to mostly start against left-handed pitching. On those days, catcher Carlos Santana would likely spell Travis Hafner as Cleveland’s designated hitter.

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Indians Player Twitter Power Rankings

A couple days late with the rankings this time around, but I get a mulligan since I was back home on Monday. Shook things up again this week. After watching THIS clip of Kipnis and Vinnie Pestano, I felt they were worthy of a first-place tie. I had high hopes for Duncan, but he flopped in his first week atop the big league board.

Week 7: Major League Rankings

t-1. @TheJK_Kid (Jason Kipnis) – Last rank: 4
t-1. @VinnieP52 (Vinnie Pestano) – Last rank: 2
3. @ChrisPerez54 (Chris Perez) – Last rank: 6
4. @thethree8 (Joe Smith) – Last rank: 5
5. @tcrowe4 (Trevor Crowe) – Last rank: 3

Sixth Man: @shelldunc (Shelley Duncan) — Last rank: 1

Top Twitter Prospects

1. @C_M_Cook (Cole Cook) – Last rank: 1
2. @TDaddyNeal (Thomas Neal) – Last rank: 2
3. @NickBartolone (Nick Bartolone) – Last rank: 3

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Make sure you’re reading Indians.com and following me on Twitter (@MLBastian). To see some of my Spring Training photos, CLICK HERE.

Stay tuned for more…

–JB

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