05/12/2013 8:21 PM ET
Chisenhall looking to improve against lefties
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
DETROIT -- Indians manager Terry Francona believes that third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall is a few good games away from swinging his season in the right direction.
Through the first six weeks, Chisenhall has struggled in the same areas that have plagued him in years past. The lefty-swinging third baseman is struggling against left-handed pitching and having a hard time getting on base regularly.
"He's just gotten himself into a little bit of a rut," Francona said. "You see him getting fastballs that he's normally all over and he's fouling them over the third-base dugout. ... He's a couple games away from being nice and respectable."
Heading into Sunday's action, Chisenhall was hitting .220 with three home runs and 11 RBIs through 25 games, but had drastically different splits. He was hitting .261 against right-handers compared to .091 off lefties. Overall, Chisenhall had 20 strikeouts and only two walks in 95 plate appearances.
Francona has occasionally spelled Chisenhall in favor of right-handed-hitting utility man Mike Aviles, especially against left-handed starters. Through 21 games, Aviles was batting .286 with two homers and 13 RBIs, with a .429 mark against righties and a .200 average off lefties. In 62 plate appearances, Aviles had seven strikeouts and three walks.
Francona admitted there is a balancing act when handling the playing time for Chisenhall and Aviles.
"A little bit," Francona said. "Early in the season, I didn't want to pinch-hit for Lonnie, because I thought I want to let guys kind of play, get their feet wet and not look over their shoulder. Now that we're into the season a little bit, I think you can start doing some things off the bench a little bit more."
Francona pointed to Saturday night, when he allowed Chisenhall to lead off the sixth against Tigers lefty Drew Smyly, but then used Aviles as a pinch-hitter against righty Al Alburquerque in the seventh. Aviles had an RBI single in that at-bat.
During Sunday's 4-3 win in 10 innings over Detroit, Francona replaced Chisenhall with pinch-hitter Mark Reynolds, who came through with a go-ahead single off lefty Darin Downs. Chisenhall finished 0-for-3 with a walk.
Francona noted that the key for Chisenhall is focusing on catching up to fastballs.
"I just think he's got to get in a position where he can let his bat speed work," Francona said. "He's just got himself in a position where he can't quite get the bat head where it wants to be. It'll get there, and when it happens [he'll be fine]."
Indians' patience forcing pitchers to work
DETROIT -- It is not often that a team forces Detroit ace Justin Verlander to pass the century mark in pitches before the end of the fifth inning. Cleveland achieved that rare feat on Saturday night, but it simply fell in line with an early-season trend for the club.
The Indians have been forcing pitchers to work all season.
Entering Sunday's game against the Tigers, the Tribe ranked fourth in the American League with 3.93 pitches per plate appearance. Cleveland boasted the fourth-lowest percentage of first-pitch swings (22 percent) in the AL and was tied for first in the league in percentage of 3-1 counts (10 percent), creating a wealth of hitter's counts.
"I think it's a byproduct of good at-bats," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I think what it really boils down to is, get a pitch you can hit. Sometimes it's the first pitch, but if you get good pitches to hit, and you take good healthy swings, the byproduct at the end of the day, you'll have grinded guys."
After a 35-pitch first inning and a 27-pitch second, Verlander lasted only five innings in Cleveland's 7-6 victory. The right-hander hit the showers at 110 pitches, marking only the fifth time in his career he's logged at least 110 pitches without working into the sixth inning -- the last time coming in 2010.
"I thought we had a great approach," Indians first baseman Nick Swisher said. "Any time you're going up against a guy like that, you have to. For us to be able to get him up to 100 pitches by the fifth inning, that's doing some work."
The Indians have forced an opposing pitcher to throw at least 110 pitches in less than six innings twice this season. In Sunday's 4-3 extra-inning win over the Tigers, Detroit starter Rick Porcello threw 101 pitches in six innings, and closer Jose Valverde tossed 29 as the Indians rallied to tie it in the ninth.
Entering play on Sunday, Cleveland was tied for fifth in the Majors for the most games (11) in which an opposing starter went over 100 pitches in less than seven innings.
Verlander was the latest example.
"I was proud of our effort," Francona said. "We always give an effort, but the quality of our at-bats [Saturday] was really good. That's one of the best pitchers you're going to see, and we made him work for everything and we extended some innings and we took advantage of it."
Perez felt shoulder stiffness while warming up
DETROIT -- Indians closer Chris Perez had both his and the team's long-term goals in mind when he said he couldn't pitch in Sunday's win over the Tigers.
While warming up in the bullpen in the top of the ninth, Perez felt stiffness in his right shoulder and alerted bullpen coach Kevin Cash. Indians manager Terry Francona went with the combination of left-hander Rich Hill and right-hander Cody Allen in the 10th inning to claim a 4-3 victory.
"Missing a day here is better than missing two months," Perez said after the game. "I might've pitched in the past. ... I always want to pitch. I always want to be up. But I felt a little better today knowing we have good arms down there."
Perez said he expected to be available for Monday's doubleheader with the Yankees.
Perez logged 22 pitches in a dramatic ninth-inning save in Saturday's 7-6 win over Detroit, giving the two-time All-Star six saves on the season. Through 13 appearances, the right-hander has gone 1-0 with a 0.69 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 13 innings.
During Spring Training, Perez missed a significant amount of time due a right shoulder injury, but he said this latest incident is unrelated to that.
"It's definitely different," Perez said. "It's a different part of the shoulder."
Prior to Sunday's game, Francona met with Perez and asked the closer to be honest with how he felt during the game, given that the closer worked an intense save the previous night. The manager said he appreciated that Perez was honest with him.
"He was really good about it," Francona said. "After he got up and threw, he said, 'You know what? [the shoulder is stiff].' I thought he used very good judgment. He was feeling it. I just don't want it to lead to an injury."
Reynolds' pink shoes a hit on Mother's Day
DETROIT -- The pink bats are now a baseball tradition, but it was a pair of bright pink shoes that stole the show in the Indians' 4-3, 10-inning victory over the Tigers on Mother's Day Sunday.
In the top half of the final inning, Cleveland slugger Mark Reynolds came off the bench as a pinch-hitter, wearing bright pink shoes. He then delivered a run-scoring single to left field, providing the go-ahead run that helped the Indians find the win column for the 12th time in the last 14 games.
"Those things were sweet," Indians reliever Cody Allen said. "They were awesome -- for one day."
Eight of the nine hitters in Cleveland's starting lineup also used the pink bats that have become associated with Mother's Day in Major League Baseball.
Fans can personalize their own pink Louisville Slugger at the MLB.com Shop, and $10 from the sale of each bat will be donated to MLB Charities in support of the fight against breast cancer. As has been the case each year since 2006, game-used pink Louisville Sluggers will be auctioned exclusively on MLB.com to raise further funds.
"I think it's awesome," Indians first baseman Nick Swisher said. "It's about raising awareness and doing what's right. If it wasn't for all the moms out there, none of us would be here. So I think it's just an amazing day. With our technology and where medicine is going, the pink bats kind of raise awareness in a sense. The NFL does it for a full month. We get to do it for one day. It's a special day for all the mothers out there."
As Sunday's game wore on, a handful of Tribe players began switching their pink bats back to their normal bats.
"Baseball players are kind of superstitious," Indians left fielder Michael Brantley said with a laugh. "I used the pink bat for my first two at-bats and then I went back to my original one. I just wanted to make sure I used the pink bat on Mother's Day, but I usually never use it for the full game."
The Indians went 3-for-23 with the pink bats and 5-for-12 with the other lumber.
Brantley was happy to take part in the annual initiative.
"It's a great cause," he said. "I always wear my wrist band, always wear my necklace and always use the bat to support. I'm just glad to be a part of it, truthfully."
Quote to note
"He plays all out, all the time. You saw his reaction when he scored. That's just pure joy. You can talk all you want about making money and everything, and I hope they all get rich. But the good players, for the most part, like trying to be better than the other teams and finding a way to beat them."
--Indians manager Terry Francona, on Jason Kipnis' slide at the plate in Saturday's 7-6 win over the Tigers.
• The Tribe defeated Verlander on Saturday, continuing this season's trend of beating up on past Cy Young Award winners. Former Cy Young recipients R.A. Dickey, David Price, Jake Peavy, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Bartolo Colon and Verlander have combined to go 1-6 with an 8.10 ERA against the Indians this season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Cleveland is the first team in baseball history to defeat six past Cy Young winners before June 1.
• Francona kept Reynolds and center fielder Michael Bourn out of the starting lineup for Sunday's game in Detroit. Reynolds had not missed a game since April 6, and Bourn recently returned from an extended stay on the disabled list. With a doubleheader against the Yankees on Monday, Francona felt it was a good time to rest both players.
But both ending up playing key roles in the win. Bourn walked as a pinch-hitter to lead off the ninth, stole second and scored the tying run, and then Reynolds drove in the go-ahead run on a single in the 10th.
• Francona indicated that right-handers Brett Myers and Vinnie Pestano (both dealing with right elbow issues) and catcher Lou Marson (right shoulder) all "came through fine" in their throwing sessions this weekend. The manager noted that Pestano is scheduled to throw off a mound on Monday and Myers is slated to do the same during the team's upcoming series in Philadelphia.
• With their 4-3 win over Detroit on Sunday, the Indians improved to 9-3 in one-run games this season, upping the Tribe's record to 33-15 in one-run contests over the past two years.