Monday Dish: Chisenhall On Track

KINSTON, N.C.—The last time we caught up with Lonnie Chisenhall, the Indians’ 2008 first-round pick had made the conversion from shortstop to third base and couldn’t wait to end spring training in order to launch his first full season in the minors.

The locale then was Arizona.

On Saturday, not from where he spent a year playing juco ball, Chisenhall appeared right at home at high Class A Kinston and billboard-lined Grainger Stadium.

It’s a cozy place where hot dogs cost a very affordable $2, and the overhang above the grandstand provides a nice old-time feel, with the clubhouse providing plenty of elbow room.

For Chisenhall, it had been a week in which he cracked grand slams on back-to-back nights in Myrtle Beach and, adding to the drama, in town was Lynchburg which includres 2008 second overall pick and third baseman Pedro Alvarez.

"I’ve been swinging the bat better than when I started off, so this is something good to look forward to," Chisenhall said. "I was swinging at pitches out of my zone. Maybe I was trying to do too much and start out with a bang.

"But I’ve been laying off balls and seeing pitches. And it’s really helped me out."

Through his first 71 at-bats, Chisenhall is batting .296/.367/.451 with three home runs, two doubles and 18 RBIs.

"(The grand slams) kind of came out of nowhere," Chisenhall said. "They both were with two strikes and as a team we were hitting well. They were rare for me, but I’m happy with it."

In a five-game series against Lynchburg, he was 4-for-15 with four RBIs, a double and home run. A highlight was his first at-bat Saturday when Lynchburg starter Matt McSwain tried to run a curveball away.

The lefthanded-hitting Chisenhall flipped it into left field.

Defensively, he looked sharp as well. Chisenhall played shortstop last year in college at Pitt CC, about a half hour north of Kinston.

At one point Saturday, a low line drive appeared to cross him up—it was shooting low and curving toward the line—before he quickly positioned his feet like a football lineman blocking.

He then reached down and snagged the ball just to the inside of his right ankle.

"Defensively, he’s played very well and has good range," Kinston manager Chris Tremie said. "He reacts well and he’s accurate."

Chisenhall was hard on himself for a play earlier in the week in which he snagged a line drive with the bases loaded and tried to double off the runner at second. Only his throw hit the runner.

But Tremie looked at his reaction as an encouraging sign.

"It was great awareness," Tremie said. "He showed he was aware he wasn’t going to get the guy at third. So he showed he knew where to go with the ball." 

It’ll be interesting to see if this is the week when Alvarez begins to settle in like Chisenhall.

At the plate, he looked jumpy and left Kinston having gone 1-for-15 with nine strikeouts and three walks. That has left him with a line of .217/.342/.383 through 60 at-bats. He’s struck out 18 times but has balanced it with 13 walks.

We’ll have more on Alvarez in an upcoming issue and expect he’ll get locked in.

But …

"What he’s going to have to work on down here is pitch recognition, where he makes them come into him rather than him expanding his zone," Lynchburg manager P.J. Forbes said. "There are times when he tries to do too much."

NORWICH FORECAST’s forecast for Norwich, Conn., the next 10 days calls for so-so weather with highs in the mid-50s to mid-60s.

If it continues to warm, then at Double-A Connecticut, it will be interesting to see whether the Giants see fit to promote pitching prospects Tim Alderson and Madison Bumgarner.

The two are scheduled this week, Alderson today and Bumgarner tomorrow, for high Class A San Jose. The Giants preferred to keep the pair out of the early season cold weather in the Eastern League.

Alderson is 0-3, 3.14 with 12 strikeouts and two walks in 14 1/3 innings.

Bumgarner is 3-0, 0.56 with 14 strikeouts and two walks in 16 innings.

He’s no longer on the pages of our Prospect Handbook (because he exhausted his eligibility), but Triple-A Louisville (Reds) righthander Homer Bailey enjoyed a memorable game Saturday against the Toledo Mudhens.

That is, with 15 strikeouts of the 26 batters he faced. The Toledo Blade has the story, including Bailey retiring nine in a row in one stretch.

Jess Todd’s conversion to the Triple-A Memphis (Cardinals) bullpen continues to be a success. The righthander and former Arkansas Razorback—by way of Navarro (Texas) JC—has 14 strikeouts against three walks in 10 1/3 innings so far.

He struck out two and walked one, plus got his first win of the season, on Friday night against Nashville (Brewers).