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03/14/11 9:15 PM ET

Tribe debating where Kipnis should begin year

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The general thinking up to this point has been that Indians prospects Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis would occupy the same infield with Triple-A Columbus to open this season.

On Monday, Indians general manager Chris Antonetti indicated that the organization is still discussing whether Kipnis -- re-assigned to Minor League camp -- should begin the year with Double-A Akron. Chisenhall, on the other hand, seems certain to start at Columbus.

"It's a little bit different," Antonetti said. "Lonnie had a full year at Double-A last year, where Kipnis had a little bit more than half a year. Lonnie is also a little bit further along in his conversion from shortstop to third base than Jason is in converting from the outfield to second base. So that's a discussion we're having."

Last season, the 23-year-old Kipnis hit .307 with 16 home runs, 32 doubles and 74 RBIs in 133 games between Class A Kinston and Double-A Akron. Kipnis played briefly at Triple-A during the playoffs, and then took part in Cleveland's instructional league and the Arizona Fall League after the season.

Antonetti said Kipnis worked extremely hard from January through November last year, focusing on his switch from the outfield to second base. So far this spring, Antonetti was extremely pleased with Kipnis' progress at the position. Whether that development will continue at Double-A or Triple-A has yet to be determined.

"I've been really encouraged," Antonetti said. "Organizationally, we feel no reason he won't be a very successful second baseman -- both offensively and defensively. He re-affirmed our expectations coming into camp, and continued to go about his work."

Chisenhall, Kipnis among seven re-assigned

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Lonnie Chisenhall looked right at home in an Indians uniform this spring, and it might not be long before the highly-touted third baseman is fitted for his Major League uniform.

Chisenhall knew from the beginning of camp, however, that he was in the big league clubhouse to gain experience -- not to make the Opening Day roster. Indians manager Manny Acta and general manager Chris Antonetti told the youngster as much in an early-spring meeting.

On Monday morning, Chisenhall's locker was cleaned out, and he was headed to a local golf course to get in 18 holes under the Arizona sun. He was among seven players, including second-base prospect Jason Kipnis and pitching prospect Alex White, who were sent to Minor League camp.

Cutting Chisenhall might have stunned the Indians' fanbase, especially after the third baseman turned the Cactus League environment into his personal playground this spring. Chisenhall would undoubtedly have loved to force Cleveland's hand, but he knew what his responsibility was this spring.

"I don't have an ulterior motive," Chisenhall said last week, when asked if he was trying to change the collective mind of the Indians' front office. "I'm just working hard to show them what I can do, and see what they think."

Chisenhall, 22, made a strong impression in his 11 Cactus League games -- displaying solid defense down the line and hitting at a .478 clip, with two home runs, two doubles and one triple. On Sunday afternoon, Chisenhall went 3-for-4 in an unofficial "B" game against the White Sox.

The reality is that Chisenhall has played precisely zero innings at Triple-A, and he appears set to open this season at that level with Cleveland's affiliate in Columbus. Last season, Chisenhall hit .278 with 17 home runs, 22 doubles and 84 RBIs over 117 games for Double-A Akron.

Antonetti said Monday that Chisenhall still has areas that need further developing before he can be deemed ready for the big leagues.

"He certainly has strengths," Antonetti said. "With his swing, his balance, his ability to consistently put the barrel of the bat on the ball, are all strengths. He needs to a little more consistent against left-handed pitching. He needs to continue to have a better awareness of the strike zone.

"And then defensively, remember, it's a guy who's transitioned from shortstop to third base, and he still needs to learn nuances at the position, defensively."

It is also fair to point out that, by sending Chisenhall to the Minors to open this season, the Tribe also delays the start of his arbitration clock. Pushing Chisenhall's promotion to the Majors back is one way to potentially avoid having him become a Super 2 player, meaning he could be eligible for arbitration one year early.

Antonetti denied that service time played any role in the decision to start Chisenhall in the Minor Leagues this season.

"That's certainly not the case," Antonetti said. "We try to rely upon our evaluators and our player development people. We meet at the end of the season every year to talk about every player in our system, and where they are developmentally. Everybody to a person thought that he still had development left to do.

"I think if you look back to last year, if he was really that far ahead, then he would've been at Triple-A at some point last year. He still had development left to do, where we felt he was best served developing at Double-A last year, and he needs some amount of Triple-A time.

"How much is going to be dependent upon a lot of things -- primarily on his development, and secondly on our Major League need."

Chisenhall, Kipnis and White, as well as right-hander Zach Putnam and catcher Juan Apodaca -- all non-roster players -- were re-assigned to Minor League camp on Monday. The Indians also optioned righty Zach McAllister and outfielder Nick Weglarz to Triple-A.

Indians preparing for all situations at hot corner

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians are not expecting Jason Donald's current hand injury to persist until the final stages of Spring Training, but that does not mean the club is waiting to think about contingency plans for third base.

On Monday, Indians general manager Chris Antonetti was quick to name Jack Hannahan when asked who might man third in the event that Donald's left hand issue lingers. Hannahan is in camp on a Minor League contract, and is known for his strong defense at the hot corner.

"Jack Hannahan has had a very good camp," Antonetti said. "We can be mindful of some of the other infielders, depending on what happens at second base. Maybe one of those other guys can be an option there for us."

Donald was struck on the back of the left hand by a pitch on March 5, and a recent MRI exam revealed a significant bone bruise. The third baseman is currently able to take part in all baseball activities, with the exception of swinging a bat. Antonetti said the hope is that Donald will be ready to return to game action later this week.

With Donald sidelined, and top third-base prospect Lonnie Chisenhall sent back to Minor League camp on Monday morning, the top remaining candidates for third base include Hannahan, Luis Valbuena and Adam Everett. Hannahan can man all four infield positions.

Antonetti has also been impressed with Hannahan's showing at the plate. Through 10 Cactus League games for the Tribe, Hannahan has hit at a .348 clip with a pair of doubles, four runs scored and four walks.

"He does a good job of getting in hitter-advantage counts," Antonetti said. "When he does, he puts a good swing on it. He's had a good camp on both sides of the ball. I think we had that expectation of him defensively, but offensively he's probably been even a little bit more consistent than we would've expected."

Sizemore could be ready to play by weekend

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Grady Sizemore could make his Spring Training game debut as early as this coming weekend. But the Indians are still not sure how long it might take before the center fielder will be able to handle a full workload.

"With Grady," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said, "we'll have to see how well he progresses, how well his body responds, and how quickly he's able to build up to that volume.

"I don't think it will be very long until he can go play one nine-inning game. It's a question of how long will it take for him to play five or six consecutive nine-inning games."

Sizemore, 28, is currently recovering from microfracture surgery he had performed on his left knee in June. On Sunday, Sizemore ran the bases for the first time since the operation. He indicated that he hopes to test his knee in a game as early as Saturday or Sunday, or by early next week at the latest.

If Cleveland opts to open the season with Sizemore on the disabled list, Antonetti said the club will likely wait to activate him until it's clear he can handle multiple games per week.

"We want to activate him when he's ready to contribute on a consistent basis," Antonetti said. "Now, exactly how many days a week that will be, I'm not quite sure. But I don't think anyone is looking for Grady to come up and play one or two days a week."

Attorneys enter not-guilty pleas for Kearns

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The attorneys for Indians outfielder Austin Kearns entered not-guilty pleas earlier this week on two charges related to his February arrest for driving under the influence in Kentucky.

According to the Jessamine Journal, attorneys Brent and Noel Caldwell entered not-guilty pleas on Thursday for the DUI charge, as well as a charge for driving without insurance. Kearns was arrested on Feb. 12 after being pulled over by an off-duty officer in Jessamine County.

A pre-trial conference has been set for 9 a.m. ET on April 19 at the Jessamine District Court.

Quote to note

"We're very happy with the type of spring that he had. Now more than ever, we're sure that he's going to be contributing to this club in the near future. From the get-go at the beginning, we told Lonnie he wasn't competing for a spot over here. He was very happy with the experience he got in camp and the progress he has made, and appreciative of the opportunity." -- Indians manager Manny Acta, on prospect Lonnie Chisenhall

Smoke signals

If center fielder Grady Sizemore (left knee) is not ready in time for Opening Day, the Indians will carry at least one extra outfielder on the bench. Whether or not the club carries two extra outfielders will depend partly on which player fills the infield utility role off the bench. ... Right-hander Joe Smith (upper abdominal soreness) remains sidelined, but hopes to be back on a mound later this week. ... Outfielder Trevor Crowe remains out with right rotator cuff soreness, which is an issue that dates back to last season. Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said the team still has not reached the point where surgery has been seriously discussed. "It's still to be determined," Antonetti said. "We're going to continue down the path that he's on now, and see how he responds to that. If at that point he fails, then we'll evaluate the alternatives -- and, obviously, surgery would be one." ... Right-hander Anthony Reyes, who was shut down due to right elbow soreness early in camp, is scheduled to make his Cactus League debut against the Brewers on Tuesday. ... Antonetti noted that the Indians are still discussing whether pitching prospect Alex White should begin this season at Double-A or Triple-A. White was re-assigned to Minor League camp on Monday. ... Antonetti also indicated that the club is still weighing whether catcher Lou Marson would benefit from regular at-bats at Triple-A, rather than opening this season as the backup catcher for the Tribe.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.