With every spring training comes countless decisions—from everyday lineups to starting rotations to deciding what players will make up the final 25-man roster on Opening Day.
This is exactly the reason for spring training, not only to get players ready for the long 162-game journey of the regular season, but also to break camp with the best 25 players on the team—or at least that's what teams are supposed to be doing, right?
Still transitioning themselves to a 25-man roster, the Cleveland Indians recently cut a total of seven players from big league camp. Among the cuts was third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall, who opened up many eyes during his short time in big league camp this spring.
Chisenhall, currently rated by Baseball America as the top prospect in the Indians organization, finished the spring hitting .470 with 2 HR and 4 RBI in 23 at-bats. That's a great stat line for any ballplayer, let alone a 22-year-old up-and-coming third baseman who hit .278 with 17 HR and 84 RBI in 117 games at Double-A Akron last season.
With the Indians' third-base job still wide open, did the Tribe make a bad move cutting Lonnie Chisenhall from their roster? Fans could certainly say so, as the demotion of the Tribe's former first-round pick leaves just four candidates to compete for the starting job: Jason Donald, Jack Hannahan, Luis Valbuena and Jayson Nix.
Let's take a look at what each of the remaining four candidates have managed to do this spring:
Hannahan: (11-for-28) .393 0 HR 4 RBI
Valbuena: (7-for-28) .250 3 HR 7 RBI
Donald: (4-for-13) .306 0 HR 0 RBI
Nix: (2-for-19) .105 1 HR 2 RBI
Donald, once claimed as the favorite to win the third-base job after a solid rookie season, hasn't been 100 percent since being hit by a pitch against the Chicago White Sox back on March 5. The injury has forced him to miss the Indians' last four games, with still no timetable as to when he will be back healthy enough to play.
If Donald isn't ready to go by April 1 or has not collected enough at-bats to be inserted in the lineup, Hannahan would most likely step in and start at third base on Opening Day. As for Valbuena and Nix, look for one of them to become the Tribe's utility man this upcoming season.
When it comes to Chisenhall, though, the bottom line as to why the Indians decided not to start him at third base may have simply been experience, as he has yet to play a game at the Triple-A level. There are some Indians fans who could look at the demotion of Chisenhall in another way.
It's hard to believe, but 10 years ago the Tribe had another young top prospect by the name of CC Sabathia waiting for his first shot in the major leagues. In a tough decision by then-Indians manager Charlie Manuel, he decided that Sabathia would in fact make the jump from Double-A to the big leagues in 2001, skipping over the Triple-A level entirely.
Sabathia's case was different, though, as the Indians were not only expected to contend in 2001, but also go deep into the playoffs after a 90-72 season the year before.
Even though Chisenhall did not win the third-base job this spring, Indians fans will see him in the big leagues very soon, possibly as early as May.
Regardless of who won the third-base job for the Tribe though, Cleveland will once again start a different player at third base in 2011, as this year will mark the sixth straight season with a different Indians third baseman in the lineup on Opening Day.
Here are the Tribe's past five Opening Day third basemen over the last five years:
2006: Aaron Boone
2007: Andy Marte
2008: Casey Blake
2009: Mark DeRosa
2010: Jhonny Peralta
I can already tell you the Indians will make it seven straight seasons with a different third baseman come Opening Day 2012, as Chisenhall will be penciled in the lineup at third base next year, hoping to end the trend and become Cleveland's starting third baseman for the next decade.
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