GOODYEAR, Ariz. — He’s been fielding grounders left and right at the hot corner this spring, dirtying his uniform when he has to, asking plenty of questions but also listening and, well, enjoying it all the way.
Best of all, Indians 2008 first-round pick Lonnie Chisenhall appreciates that his conversion to third base is happening full bore, well before his first full season in pro ball gets under way.
That’s because the guy that is hitting those grounders at him and offering a trunk load of advice was steered away from shortstop to third base on, let’s see, the second day he reached the major leagues.
“Travis Fryman has pretty much worked with me on everything, and he’s been great. He’s made this transition a lot easier. He also was my manager last year, so we’ve already built a relationship,” Chisenhall said Saturday. “But I’m glad I’m not waiting until that day (like Fryman) to do it because this makes it a lot easier for me.”
When the Indians marshaled Chisenhall from shortstop to third last fall in instructional league, the decision mirrored scouting reports that believed his limited range would not translate at advanced levels.
But the timing of the decision couldn’t have been much better. Chisenhall, now 20, has been working to lose the stigma of being the knucklehead that got booted from South Carolina during his freshman season, preferring instead to become more business-like in his approach to the game.
A year spent at Pitt (N.C) CC has reshaped his focus. Instead of being a five-hour drive from home, he could slip away on some days and be home within an hour. He calmed down. He rededicated himself to the game.
“I kind of woke up with what happened at South Carolina,” said Chisenhall, who was dismissed following an arrest on charges of larceny. “When I got to junior college, I stayed more focused. I had a lot more hours of classes to make up, and I was limited in what I did and who I was around.”
And now it’s all about becoming a third baseman.
Which Fryman, who played 13 years in the majors combined for the Tigers and Indians, is optimistic will become a success. Fortunately for the Indians, the change of position is not entirely new for Chisenhall, who played third at South Carolina and did again in fall ball at Pitt (N.C). CC.
“He has taken to it very quickly,” Fryman said. “It was pretty impressive last fall and this spring, he’s looked very good over there. Your first full season is tough. You have to know your body. But I expect he’ll do a very good job at third base.”
What piques Fryman’s interest in Chisenhall’s potential is a nice mix of soft hands, arm strength and an overall positive feel for groundballs.
The two also are working on Chisenhall’s throws. As a shortstop, he would sort of fling it low three-quarters. Fryman thinks that will be advantageous on balls hit to his left. But he has emphasized throwing more over the top and generating backspin on balls that he gathers to his right.
Fryman also has stressed that Chisenhall keep his head movements to a minimum, explaining that it will allow him to get better reads off bats and maintain focus in order to have increased reaction times.
All that said, Chisenhall acknowledges that his bat will have to keep him at third as well. Known more as a line-drive hitter, his pro debut produced a line of .290/.355/.438 with five home runs and 20 doubles and 45 RBIs.
“I’m not a conventional third baseman as far as home runs go,” Chisenhall said. “But I feel I will be able to put good numbers once I stay there.”