SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Indians manager Manny Acta has described choosing between Jack Hannahan and Lonnie Chisenhall as the starting third baseman as one of the toughest decisions the team has to make this spring.
Acta does not view one as being up against the other, though.
"Lonnie is competing with himself," Acta said on Wednesday. "That's what it is."
What Acta means is that Cleveland already knows what it has in Hannahan. He is one of the best defensive third basemen in the game and can serve as a utility infielder off the bench, if he is not named the starter at the hot corner. Chisenhall, on the other hand, is young and still needs to earn his way on the Opening Day roster.
During Wednesday's 10-2 Cactus League win over the D-backs, Hannahan started and went 1-for-3 with a grand slam in the third inning. Chisenhall replaced him in the later portion of the game and ended 1-for-2 at the plate.
It is Chisenhall's task this spring to prove to the Tribe that he is ready to handle the full-time job in the Majors.
"He's going to have to convince us that he's the guy -- that's plain and simple," Acta said. "If he convinces us that he's ready to be the guy for us, then we'll make that decision. That's what I mean when I say that we know what we have in Jack."
There are two scenarios seemingly at play in the decision. If the 23-year-old Chisenahall wins the everyday job at third base, Hannahan would slide to the bench. The other possibility is that Chisenahall opens the season at Triple-A Columbus, in the event that the Indians decide to stick with Hannahan.
In 66 games with the Indians last summer, Chisenhall hit .255 with seven home runs and 22 RBIs, and he saw both his strikeout and walk rates worsen from his typical Minor League production. Hannahan, 32, hit .250 with eight homers and 40 RBIs in 110 games with Cleveland last season, but hit .368 over the final six weeks of the season.
"He had a better approach, we felt, of not trying to hit for power so much," Acta said of Hannahan's improvement down the stretch. "[He was] just staying up the middle the other way, waiting on the ball, and he did a very good job.
"I think he had a rough spell over there in Cleveland for a while, while he was trying to play through injuries and stuff. Other than that, he had some quality at-bats for us. We feel he's much better than what he's been in the past."
Acta said the process of picking one over the other will likely take until the final days of camp.
"It's going to be one of the toughest decisions we're going to make," Acta said. "But, you know what? At the end of the day, this kid [Chisenhall] is only 23 years old. If he's ready to go, we'll take him. If we don't feel it's best for us and for him, then we won't."
Kipnis makes most of open mic day
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Some players had fun with it. Others became uncharacteristically quiet. They could all at least agree that being mic'd up during Wednesday's 10-2 Cactus League win over the D-backs was a fun concept for the fans watching on MLB Network.
"I'm a fan of baseball," Indians third baseman Jack Hannahan said. "So if I was at home or whatever, I think it might be pretty cool. But, it's a little different being a part of it."
Hannahan was among the handful of Cleveland starters who were wearing microphones for in-game audio during the television broadcast. The third baseman said he did not feel like he could be himself, making the hot corner a quieter place than usual.
Then there was Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis. The young infielder had some fun with it, even breakig into song while standing at his position during an inning. Kipnis started softly singing one of Adele's hits.
"That's what I heard," Indians manager Manny Acta said with a laugh. "I'll be interested to see that."
Acta was also mic'd up, which is a concept that the manager thought was creative on the part of MLB Network. That said, Acta added that some of the conversations that take place on the bench throughout a game -- private chats between coaches, for example -- would not take place when millions of people have a chance to listen in.
"If everybody is listening to you, you're not going to say it," Acta said. "Those conversations just go out the window when you're mic'd."
Acta liked the idea, though.
"It' svery innovative," he said. "I think it's cool. In a way, it is cool for people to hear what's going on in there. A lot of those cliches that you use in the dugouts, if you use it out on the streets, people won't know what we're talking about. ... It'll be fun if the fans at home could hear some of that stuff."
Of course, the fans would not be hearing everything.
"It helped me clean up my language," Acta quipped.
Left field remains an open competition
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The way the Indians see things, they know what they have in Shelley Duncan. He will get consideration for the available job in left field, but Cleveland first needs to get a closer look at some other outfielders.
In Wednesday's 10-2 Cactus League victory over the D-backs, non-roster invitee Fred Lewis got the nod in left field. Other players the Tribe wants to evaluate closely this spring include newcomers Aaron Cunningham, Ryan Spilborghs, Felix Pie and Russ Canzler.
"We're going to see all the other guys that we don't know," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "At the end of camp, we'll decide whether [Duncan] is going to be the guy, or somebody else. But we don't need to be running him out there every day just to try to win that job. We've seen him. We need to see the other guys and find out."
In a perfect world, Acta said he would like to find a starting outfielder who can provide a nice blend of offense and defense. Left fielder Michael Brantley and center fielder Grady Sizemore formed a nice defensive tandem, but Brantley has shifted to center, now that Sizemore is sidelined for at least two months after lower back surgery.
Right-handed options such as Cunningham and Spilborghs are better defensively than Duncan, but he has shown strong offensive potential dating back to last September. In 26 games over the final month, Duncan hit .265 with seven home runs and 23 RBIs for the Indians. So far this spring, Duncan has two homers and six RBIs in seven Cactus League at-bats.
If Duncan, who is out of Minor League options, continues to shine in the batter's box for Cleveland, there is a chance that the club might take a chance on him as the regular left fielder come Opening Day.
"You've seen him in the outfield, so we're going to have to wait and see," Acta said. "Ideally, you'd like to have a guy who could play both ends, but at the end of the day you have to configure youre roster with the best 25 guys.
"At times, you're going to have to give up some defense in order to have some offense, too, because that's been our issue here the last couple years."
Indians closer Chris Perez, who has been sidelined with a strained left oblique since Feb. 23, played catch for the second day in a row on Wednesday. Perez threw from a distance of 75 feet and said he will take the day off on Thursday. Perez's flat-ground throwing program will increase in 15-foot increments to 120 feet before he moves back to a mound.
Indians left-hander Rafael Perez is scheduled to throw off a mound on Thursday for the first time since the early-spring bullpen sessions. Perez had been sidelined with soreness in his left shoulder, but is moving closer to being available for Cactus League play.
Indians Minor League right-hander Austin Adams, who was recently shut down due to soreness in his throwing shoulder, returned to the mound on Wednesday. Adams is a non-roster invitee this spring and not a realistic option for the big league team for the start of the season.
The Indians were not allowed to use a designated hitter during Wednesday's 10-2 win over the D-backs. National League hosting American League teams decide whether to use the DH or make the pitchers hit. When Tribe pitchers are forced to bat during Spring Training, they are instructed not to swing.
Quote to note:
"It sounds like a cool idea, but I don't think guys are themselves unless you stick one of those fancy chip microphones in there without them knowing it. And then, that could be scary. When guys have a microphone on them, they either go overboard with joking around or they're very cautious of what they're going to say." -- Indians manager Manny Acta, on being mic'd up during a game