Indians’ Antonetti on moves: ‘It was best for the team to look at other alternatives’
CLEVELAND — It’s not often that a team replaces the left side of its infield two months into the season, but in the case of the Indians they couldn’t wait any longer to see if Jose Ramirez and Lonnie Chisenhall could turn things around. They have been optioned to Triple-A Columbus while Zach Walters and Giovanny Urshela have been called up.
"It got to the point where it was best for the team to look at other alternatives," general manager Chris Antonetti said on Monday. "We tried to continue to work with them as much as possible but we felt it was best for the team and their individual development for them to go to Columbus and work through things."
Since late April many fans have wanted to see Ramirez demoted but for most of that time the Indians were steadfast in hoping that he could work through some things. Before last Friday’s game against Baltimore Terry Francona said he thought that Ramirez was starting to show signs of getting hot a couple weeks ago, but that it didn’t last. Ramirez is hitting only .180 in 46 games.
There were other reasons that Ramirez’s demotion didn’t happen until now. Mike Aviles was away from the team for 10 days last month caring for his daughter after she was diagnosed with leukemia and the organization has been consistent in saying that Francisco Lindor is not ready.
Aviles has started four of the past five games at short and will get the majority of playing time. While he is batting .250 since returning to the team last month, Aviles has recorded a hit in 10 of his last 14 starts.
Walters, who had just one hit in 17 at-bats when he was called up last month, does fill the utility role on the bench that Francona loves to have. Besides short and third, Walters can play the outfield. He has some power potential as he showed last year with seven home runs but also has an above-average swing and miss rate.
Antonetti said during Monday’s conference call with reporters that Lindor was a consideration to be promoted this time and that "we believe he will impact our team at some point in the future." Over the past month, Lindor is batting .303 and has a hit in 11 of his last 13 games.
However, Lindor has had some issues with his midsection. It hasn’t been enough to keep him out of the lineup but if they are going to call him up they want him as close to 100 percent as possible. More important though is that we haven’t reached the Super Two cutoff point yet. Much to the relief of Antonetti and Francona, the Indians are playing better and only two games under .500 which still gives them a little more time to wait for Lindor.
Antonetti said that Ramirez will see time at multiple positions at Columbus. With Aviles in the last year of his deal, Ramirez might be able to fill the utility role on the Indians’ bench in 2016 with Lindor being the every day shortstop.
Less than a year after playing his way back into the lineup, Chisenhall has resembled the player he was in 2013, when he lost his starting spot at third and was sent down to Columbus. After a seven-game hitting streak last month, he is batting .165 in his last 25 games (14-for-87) with two RBI.
Last year at this point, Chisenhall was batting .362 in 49 games. After Sunday’s loss to Baltimore, his average was .209. Chisenhall committed two errors in Sunday’s game, but has only five this season. Francona said after the game that he thought Lindor’s defense had improved so far.
Many thought at the end of last season that Urshela would contend for a roster spot in spring training, but a knee injury in winter ball and back issues in spring training negated that. In 21 games at Columbus, Urshela batted .275 with five doubles, three home runs and nine RBI. Besides his strength in being good defensively, Urshela is a right-handed bat with some power.
One has to also wonder too what Chisenhall’s future with the Indians might be after this latest setback and if the Indians look for help at third at the trade deadline next month if Urshela can’t provide a spark.
After being nine games back in mid-May, the Indians are trailing the Twins by six games going into Monday. While Kansas City (3-7) and Detroit (2-8) have stumbled in their last 10, the Indians are 6-4. They also are only three out of the second wild card spot. Cleveland hosts Seattle for three games starting Tuesday before a key weekend set at Detroit.