ANAHEIM -- Third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall faces a left-hander every day inside the batting cage. When he is going through his pregame routine, he usually is swinging against hitting coach Ty Van Burkleo, who happens to be a southpaw.
The official at-bats against lefty pitchers have been few and far between.
"It's funny," Chisenhall said on Monday afternoon at Angel Stadium. "We were talking about it today. I told him, 'I haven't gotten an out against a lefty in the regular season in more than six months.' That's pretty good."
He was correct.
The last time the left-handed-hitting Chisenhall made an out against a left-handed pitcher came on Aug. 8 of last season. From Aug. 9 through Sunday, the Indians had 821 at-bats against lefties as a team. During that span, Chisenhall had only two at-bats against a southpaw, and hit a pair of singles in that extremely small sample.
There is a method to the madness. Chisenhall has hit .200 in his career against lefties (.111 in 2013), compared with .264 against righties (.286 in '13). In the second half of last season, while Cleveland was making a push toward the playoffs, manager Terry Francona prioritized winning over his third baseman's development against lefty pitching.
That approach has carried over into this season. For Monday's series opener against the Angels, for example, Chisenhall resided on the bench with lefty Tyler Skaggs on the hill for Los Angeles. Francona gave the nod at third base to right-handed-hitting utility man Mike Aviles.
"That's a really hard one for me," Francona said. "You get a guy like Lonnie that's got the ability to play every day. And you think, well, 'OK, the only way he's ever going to find out is if you do it.' But then you've got a guy like Aviles sitting there. So you try to strike a balance, and winning has to always come first."
The results have backed up Francona's handling of Chisenhall's playing time. During that Aug. 9-to-Sunday stretch, the 25-year-old was tied with Michael Brantley for the Tribe's best batting average (.279), and he led the club with an .820 OPS. Through 15 games this season, Chisenhall was hitting .381 with six doubles and six runs scored.
His lone at-bat against a lefty this season came on April 17 (Detroit's Phil Coke). He singled to right field to improve to 4-for-6 in his career against the reliever.
"We saw how [Francona] used his bench guys last year," Chisenhall said. "I'm in that category this year. They just find good matchups for me. Whether it's DH'ing, playing third or pinch-hitting, they're putting the best matchups out there. You want to have the best lineup every night.
"I also feel like I've put in the right work. I've had much better at-bats, and I'm happier with where I'm at. I'm kind of understanding who I am as a hitter a little more. I'm just continuing to play and waiting to see how things pan out, and waiting for my opportunity."
Carrasco sent to 'pen; McAllister to start Wednesday
ANAHEIM -- The Indians gave right-hander Carlos Carrasco a spot in the rotation with the hope that he would realize his potential and take flight. But after four disappointing outings, Cleveland has decided to make a change.
Following Monday's 6-3 loss to the Angels, manager Terry Francona said that Carrasco will have a new home in the bullpen. Right-hander Zach McAllister will start in place of Carrasco on Wednesday against the Angels on short rest.
"We've put Carlos in the bullpen," Francona said. "That way we kind of fortify our bullpen. Hopefully, we can get him on a roll and he can help us out there."
Through four starts (22 innings), the 27-year-old Carrasco went 0-3 with a 6.95 ERA. On Friday in San Francisco, he took the loss after being charged with four runs on five hits in a season-high six innings. Since he last won a start for Cleveland, on June 29, 2011, he has gone 0-12 with an 8.09 ERA in 17 starts.
Carrasco sat out the 2012 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.
One issue this season for Carrasco has been successfully navigating through a lineup multiple times. Opposing hitters had a .250 average and .743 OPS in their first plate appearance against him and a .406 average and 1.022 OPS in their second.
Last season, Carrasco posted a 1.32 ERA in eight relief outings for Cleveland.
As for McAllister, he logged just 75 pitches in a loss to the Giants on Saturday. In that outing he was charged with four runs on five hits with six strikeouts and one walk. He might have stayed in the game longer, but San Francisco took a one-run lead in the fifth, and the pitcher's spot in the batting order was due up in the following inning.
McAllister, who worked through a bullpen session on Monday, has no problem with starting again on only three days of rest.
"That was really a short outing for me as far as pitch count goes," McAllister said. "I was able to bounce back and feel good. I have no issues with it. It's not a problem for me at all. I'm ready to go."
Thanks to a scheduled off-day on Thursday, the Indians will not need a fifth starter until May 6. That gives them a week to decide what to do with the vacancy in the rotation. Two options at Triple-A are Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin.
Francona hesitated when asked if Carrasco might return to a starting role.
"We're going to put him in the bullpen and we'll see," he said. "I just think that for our team and for him, I think maybe we have a chance to maybe try to get him some more confidence and, at the same time, help us win some games."
Santana staying in cleanup spot for now
ANAHEIM -- When the lineup was posted on Monday for the opener of the three-game series against the Angels, Carlos Santana's name remained in the cleanup spot. Manager Terry Francona firmly believes that the struggling Santana will turn things around.
"He will hit. He's just too good a hitter," Francona said prior to the game. "He just seems to have temporary amnesia. It'll go away. It's curable."
Francona was rewarded for his faith in the fourth inning, when Santana took Angels lefty Tyler Skaggs deep for three-run homer. The blast -- Santana's second of the season -- snapped his 0-for-12 skid at the plate.
Heading into Monday's game, the switch-hitting Santana -- Cleveland's third baseman, backup catcher and part-time designated hitter -- was batting just .122 with one home run and three RBIs through 24 games. In his last 16 games, he had only three hits in 58 at-bats, for a .052 average. He went 0-for-9 in the Giants' sweep of the Tribe over the weekend.
Through it all, Francona has kept Santana in the fourth spot in the lineup, though he admits to having weighed whether to make a change.
"Man, I've thought about that," he said. "He's such a good hitter and he is going to be a good hitter. At the moment he's having a really tough time. That's that balance that you try to have. As a manager, are you being stubborn, or are you being patient?
"If I really thought it would help us a lot to change it around, I obviously would. He's going to hit. I know that. I hope it's tonight, but whether it's tonight or next week, he's going to hit."
Francona reiterated his preference to keep Santana between the lefty-hitting Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley. If Santana was not hitting cleanup, moving Brantley to the fourth spot could make an easier late-inning situation for opposing bullpens. Francona also is not keen on the idea of pulling the switch-hitting Nick Swisher (the cleanup man on Opening Day last season) out of the No. 2 spot right now.
Asked if moving Santana down in the order could alleviate some pressure for the cleanup man, Francona said that is not always the case.
"It can," he said, "but it depends on who the person is. Sometimes guys think maybe you lost confidence in them. There's lot of things that come into play."
Tribe pleased with Salazar's bounceback start
ANAHEIM -- Young right-hander Danny Salazar made it his goal on Sunday to pitch the way he did for the Indians in the second half of last season. Facing the Giants, he accomplished that goal with seven strong innings to bounce back from what had been a rough April.
Pitching coach Mickey Callaway said that Salazar did indeed look like the phenom that Cleveland watched overpower hitters last summer.
"It's exactly what he did last year," Callaway said on Monday. "He came in last year kind of with a chip on his shoulder, proving that he belonged here. He doesn't really have to change anything right now. Just go with the same approach, compete, battle, give them your best stuff every night and see what happens."
Following his outing, which resulted in a no-decision, Salazar said that a key for him was not overthinking on the mound. He made minor adjustments throughout the game, did not fret over his mechanics, and ended with eight strikeouts, one walk and one run allowed in a 101-pitch effort.
In each of his previous three starts, he was chased before logging five innings. During that span, he posted a 9.95 ERA, allowed 19 hits in only 12 2/3 innings and gave up a 1.061 opponents' OPS.
"I think the biggest difference [on Sunday] was just staying with the same intensity," Callaway said. "He was staying with the same delivery. He wasn't trying to pull back and go get some [more velocity]. He just hasn't pitched long enough to be able to do that and stay consistent with his mechanics. I think he just stayed consistent with his mechanics and stayed consistent with his effort level and pitched good.
"[In his previous starts, he was trying to think, 'When I should add?' and 'When should I subtract?' He doesn't have a feel for that yet. He hasn't pitched long enough. So go out there, don't think, just give them your best stuff. Wipe them out when you can. Get ahead like you can, and that's it. He did a really good job of that."
Salazar also registered 19 first-pitch strikes to the 26 hitters he faced, for a first-pitch strike rate of 73.1 percent. Entering the outing he had thrown 55.7 percent first-pitch strikes on the season.
"That's always a key for everybody," Callaway said.
Quote to note
"Joe Smith is one of the most professional good guys in our game. I remember a conversation I had with Smitty when he was going through free agency. I remember telling him, flat out, I said, 'We want you back so bad, but if we don't, I hope you break the bank.' He's what you want in a player." -- Francona, on former Indians setup man and current Angels closer Joe Smith
• The Indians scored just five runs, hit .162 as a team and went 2-for-20 with runners in scoring position during their three losses to the Giants over the weekend. On the season, Cleveland has a .237 team average, with a .218 average with runners in scoring position.
"To this point I think we've been inconsistent," Francona said. "We certainly haven't gotten everybody going at the same time, but that's kind of a rarity anyway. When you're not whacking the ball all over the ballpark, you either have to get two-out hits or somebody has to get a big hit, a big three-run homer. We haven't been able to really do that."
• Entering Monday, the Indians had recorded at least 10 strikeouts in their past two games and in 12 of 25 games this season. That marked the most double-digit strikeout games in the Majors -- one more than the D-backs and Cardinals (11 each). The Indians were also tied with the Yankees for the American League lead, with 223 strikeouts as a staff.
• During the three-game series in San Francisco, Cleveland's 1-3 hitters (Bourn, Swisher and Kipnis) hit a combined .324 with four extra-base hits, four runs and four RBIs. The rest of the lineup hit a combined .074, with the 4-6 hitters (Santana, Brantley and Asdrubal Cabrera) going 0-for-29 as a group.