4/6/2014 4:04 P.M. ET
Chisenhall earning more at-bats with hot hitting
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
CLEVELAND -- Indians manager Terry Francona headed into this season unsure of how much playing time Lonnie Chisenhall would receive. If the third baseman keeps hitting the way he has early on, Francona will continue to find him at-bats.
On Sunday, Chisenhall was in the lineup for Cleveland for the third straight game, but Francona had moved the left-handed hitter up to the sixth spot from the ninth hole. With Twins right-hander Ricky Nolasco on the mound, Francona felt it was a good opportunity to get Chisenhall some more time on the field.
"He's swung the bat well," Francona said prior to Sunday's game. "He's had about half the at-bats, but he's done a good job. We're looking for offense, and with [Mike] Aviles playing today, we're trying to keep some balance in the lineup. So we're hitting [Chisenhall] behind Michael Brantley. I think he deserves it."
Chisenhall started as the designated hitter, which is a role he could fill more routinely this season now that Carlos Santana is handling the bulk of the time at third base. Francona noted last week that Ryan Raburn could also see more at-bats as the DH this season, especially against left-handed pitching.
Entering Sunday's game against the Twins, Chisenhall was 4-for-8 at the plate with two doubles, three runs scored and one walk. In 94 games for the Indians last season, the 25-year-old third baseman hit at a .225 clip with 11 homers, 17 doubles and 36 RBIs.
Bourn eager to return, but being patient
CLEVELAND -- Michael Bourn showed up to the Indians' clubhouse on Sunday morning and immediately took some heat from his teammates. They jumped at the opportunity to give Bourn a hard time about the patchy beard he was sporting.
Bourn took the jokes in stride, because he was happy to be back with the team and thrilled to be closing in on his return from the 15-day disabled list. Sunday was an off-day for Bourn, but he tested his left hamstring during a seven-inning stint with Triple-A Columbus in the first game of a doubleheader on Saturday.
In his first game action since March 16, when he injured the hamstring in a Spring Training tilt against the Giants, Bourn collected a single in three at-bats and ran down some balls in center field. Bourn said he will likely play at least two more games prior to rejoining Cleveland's lineup.
"My leg feels good hitting," Bourn said. "It doesn't bother me running. We've just got to make sure with a hamstring that it's ready, because it's kind of hard to gauge. It's hard to go all out to know that you've got to trust yourself on everything. I use my legs for pretty much a lot of my game. I'm a fast-twitch type person, so I just have to make sure I'm OK."
It is possible that Bourn will join the Indians at some point during their upcoming road trip through Chicago and Detroit. Beginning Thursday, Cleveland has four road games against the White Sox and, following an off-day on April 14, the Tribe heads to the Motor City for three games against the Tigers.
While Bourn has been sidelined, the Indians have leaned primarily on outfielder Nyjer Morgan to handle the leadoff and center-field duties. Heading into Sunday's game, Morgan had gone 4-for-10 at the plate with four walks, two sacrifice bunts and one sacrifice fly.
"He's done a good job," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Morgan. "He's been on base I think half the time, which is really good. That's what we hope for. It takes the sting out of losing a guy like Bourn when you have a guy getting on base so much."
Bourn said Morgan's performance has also helped the center fielder exercise patience in his comeback.
"You don't want to feel that pressure to rush back," Bourn said. "He's a good player. He's a proven player in the big leagues. He can hit leadoff and play center field. I don't want to be in a rush to get back just because. It's early in the season, too. I'm trying to be a veteran."
Pestano's return to form a work in progress
CLEVELAND -- The Indians saw signs this spring that Vinnie Pestano was getting closer to the type of reliever he was a couple years ago. Through two appearances this season, it is evident that Pestano still has work to do in his comeback.
During Saturday's 7-3 loss to the Twins, Pestano allowed two runs on three hits in the ninth inning, marking the second outing in a row in which he allowed a run. The right-hander's pitch velocity also continues to be lower than his usual level.
Indians manager Terry Francona said Pestano's return to form remains a work in progress.
"We're trying to figure out where Vinnie is," Francona said on Sunday morning. "I don't think we're at the finishing line yet. I think that's probably the best way to put it. He showed up in really good shape. I think he felt like he had a lot to prove early on in camp. He really dominated hitters."
Since the day he made the Opening Day roster, Pestano has allowed 10 runs on 11 hits in four innings (two innings in Cactus League play and two in the regular season). Entering Saturday, Pestano was averaging 89.4 mph with his fastball. Last April, he averaged 92.8 mph on his heater.
"His stuff has been a little flatter," Francona said. "I think you see him sometimes trying to generate some movement. That's why he yanked that ball to the backstop [on Saturday]. Maybe trying to make it move instead of let it move. We're trying to balance getting outs from who we have in our bullpen and guys getting better moving forward. Sometimes that's a hard thing to match up."
Francona said pitch speed is not the top priority for Pestano right now.
"I don't want to get too caught up in velocity," Francona said, "because then everyone is going to say, 'The gun said this.' I don't think that's the end-all. Hitters will let you know. I do think he's trying to figure out where he's at right now and where it's going to go. I think he feels really healthy. That's good."
Pestano, who excelled as Cleveland's setup man in the 2011-12 seasons, noted that he did indeed feel strong during Saturday's outing against the Twins.
"I felt really good," Pestano said, "which is probably the most discouraging thing, because you feel the best you've felt in a while, but results not there."
Quote to note
"He's kind of a baseball lifer. When they've had good teams, he's had them where they're supposed to be. And when they haven't had the talent, they haven't gone off and pulled the trigger or reacted, which I think says a lot about their organization. They know they have good people in place."
-- Francona on Twins manager Ron Gardenhire
• On Sunday, the Indians acquired right-hander Duke von Schamann from the Dodgers in exchange for lefty Colt Hynes, who was designated for assignment on March 30. Cleveland has assigned von Schamann to Double-A Akron. In three professional seasons, the righty has gone 18-11 with a 3.93 ERA in 43 games (37 starts).
• Indians starters Corey Kluber, Zach McAllister, Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco have combined for a 6.75 ERA, 2.14 WHIP and 1.42 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 18 2/3 innings in their first starts of the season. Francona said it is way too early in the season to draw much of a conclusion from those results.
"It's been one time through the rotation," Francona said. "Everybody has started one game. I wish everybody that started one game had worked ahead in every count and didn't give up any runs. That's not the way the game is. There's travel, there's weather, there's [the] human element. Now, they'll get their second time through. Obviously, we want to get better as we go."
• Entering Sunday, Cleveland's pitching had allowed eight of its 19 total runs in the first inning. The staff as a whole has a 14.40 ERA in the first inning, compared to a 2.08 ERA (nine earned runs in 39 innings) from the second inning on.
• Saturday's loss to the Twins snapped Cleveland's seven-game winning streak against Minnesota, dating back to last season. Since the start of the 2013 campaign, the Indians were 14-7 against the Twins, heading into Sunday's game.
• Through the first five games, the Indians have scored 13 of their 19 runs in the seventh inning or later. Cleveland has scored eight runs in the ninth inning, collecting at least one in the final frame in four of the first five games.