Optioning Chisenhall, Ramirez “best for the team”
Late Sunday night, the Indians optioned third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall and shortstop Jose Ramirez to Triple-A, and the club will recall third baseman Giovanny Urshela and utility man Zach Walters before Tuesday’s game. On Monday morning, Cleveland GM Chris Antonetti went over the decisions on a conference call with reporters. Here is a transcript of the Q&A session:
Opening comments on the roster moves:
“Obviously, it’s been a difficult start to the season for Lonnie and Jose. We tried to continue to work with them as much as possible to help them get it going and be productive Major League players, but we reached a point where we felt that it was best for the team and for their individual development to go to Triple-A and work through some things there, and then hopefully come back and be Major League options for us and impact us later on in the season. That was the motivation and rationale behind the moves.
“In terms of Gio and Zach Walters, they’ll come up and fill roles on the team. Exactly how the playing time will be broken up between shortstop and third base will be to be determined at some point. I’m not sure that there’s a specific amount that we delineated for each guy to play at those positions, but between Mike Aviles, Zach Walters and Giovanny Urshela, they’ll get the bulk of the at-bats at shortstop and third base.
“I would expect that you’ll see Mike, as he has over the last 10 days, probably get more of the shortstop opportunities.”
Q: What makes you believe Urshela is ready?
“I think with Gio, he’s always been a very good defender, a guy that’s taken great pride in his defense and the work that he’s put in over there. I think that’s been one of his core strengths throughout his career in the Minor Leagues. I think what we’ve seen with Gio, over the course of the last two years especially, is a maturation and development as a hitter. I think he’s continued to gain an understanding of what he needs to do to be successful, and that has translated to his success on the field both last year in Columbus and since he’s put the injury behind him this year. Now that he’s healthy, we feel like he’s ready to come up and contribute to helping us win games at the Major League level.”
“I think one of the things, and I think we’ve touched upon this a little bit in the past, between the ’13 and ’14 seasons, Gio went out to Arizona and committed to multiple strength and conditioning programs, and he really focused on becoming more powerful and more explosive and getting his body in a better position. That work that he did in the offseason translated into impacting him defensively and especially offensively, where it’s allowed him to get into his legs better and be able to generate more power and more bat speed to the ball, and get him into a better position to hit and do damage. That, along with his continued maturation as a hitter, and improved approach at the plate, has come together to allow him to contribute not only defensively, but offensively as well.”
Q: What was behind the timing of these moves?
“We just got to that point where we felt it was best for the team to look at other alternatives and then, probably as importantly for Lonnie and Jose, we tried to continue to work with them and help them work through their struggles at the Major League level. But, it got to the point where we felt the best environment for them to make those adjustments and improve was in Triple-A. There’s no immediate science to it. There’s no way to say, ‘This day is better than that day.’ We just reached that point over the weekend. Obviously, it’s something that we’ve been talking about over the last couple of weeks, but it got to the point over the weekend where we thought it was best both for the team and for them individually to make the moves now.”
Q: Was Francisco Lindor considered for promotion?
“Yes, he was a consideration, but just like other guys on the Triple-A roster. We considered all the alternatives, and we felt it was best again for the team and for the individuals involved to go with this series of moves. Francisco is continuing to develop. He’s making progress in Columbus and, again, we’re very confident he’ll impact our Major League team at some point in the near future.”
Q: Is Lindor a little banged up right now?
“He is a little bit banged up. He’s been working through some things with his mid-section, his core, and his hand as well. Nothing major. Nothing that’s kept him from being in the lineup, but he’s working through some things. Last night, him DHing was more a function of us wanting to give Zach a game at shortstop before he came up here.”
Q: Did the minor injury issues play a role in keeping Lindor in Triple-A?
“Yeah. I think we looked at all the information on each of those guys, including where they were physically. That was a consideration, but I wouldn’t say it was necessarily a driving factor.”
Q: What was the message to Ramirez and Chisenhall before they went to Triple-A?
“Most importantly, the thing we reiterated is how much we believe in them and that we know they’re going to be good players and, in fact, we’re counting on them to impact our team at some point later on this season. It’s just … we felt that they weren’t able to make the type of progress that they would’ve hoped at the Major League level to work through their struggles. Our conversation with each one of them is, ‘OK, let’s work together, come up with a plan to get you guys being back to the successful players. We know you’re capable of doing that.’ With each guy, it’s a little bit different. What Jose may need to work on is a litle bit different than maybe what Lonnie needs to work on.”
“I think Lonnie deserves a lot of credit for the work he put in defensively and for the improvements that he’s shown this year defensively. I know he did not have a great game over the weekend, but on balance, I think everybody would say that we’ve been really pleased with the progress that he’s made defensively. If you take that progress and now maybe get back to some of the things that made him a successful hitter in the past, and now you combine a successful hitter with a strong defender, that’s ultimately what our vision for Lonnie would be. I know he’ll work towards getting to that point.”
Q: And Ramirez?
“It’s important to remember with Jose, he’s still a really young player at 22. He went through a period last year where he came up and struggled at the Major League level, went down to Triple-A and came back a better player. So, hopefully, we can follow a similar pattern where Jose, and actually in partnering with us, we can figure out what allowed that to happen last year with Jose. What are the things he needs to focus on now to get back to that contributing, confident player that we’ve seen? I think it’s important not to lose focus that he was a big part of why we played so well in the second half last year. And so, we need to work with him to get him back to that point. Again, we’re encouraged by the fact we know Jose has gone through this struggle [before]. He went through it last year, and was able to come back to the Major Leagues a better player. Hopefully we can follow a similar blueprint for success.”
Q: Will Lindor and Ramirez split the playing time at short at Triple-A?
“We’ll have to work through exactly how we allocate playing time down there. I think Jose will see time at a number of positions, but he will also play some shortstop.”