CLEVELAND — An extended slump to start the season has cost third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall his job and his big-league status.
Batting just .213 with three home runs and 11 RBIs over 26 games, Chisenhall was optioned to Triple-A Columbus prior to a doubleheader Monday against the Yankees at Progressive Field.
The Indians promoted left-hander David Huff to fill the roster spot of Chisenhall, who was hitless in his last 11 at-bats, and is batting just .217 (5-for-23) with runners in scoring position. He has struck out 22 times in 94 at-bats.
“We felt like the outcome of his at-bats were starting to affect his play,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “He even kind of admitted that. This guy is such a building block in our organization. This is not an indictment on him. He’s going to figure it out and he’s going to be a force here.
“I just think it’s better for him right now to be able to go take a deep breath, get some at-bats, get him self rolling, and you’ll see him back here leaning on some fastballs.”
Mark Reynolds is expected to receive the bulk of playing time at third base in Chisenhall’s absence. The Indians have other options as well, including catcher Yan Gomes, who has been impressive at the plate and could be working his way into a regular spot in the lineup. Chisenhall’s absence likely opens up more time for Gomes.
“We have versatility,” Francona said. “We can put (Mike) Aviles there. Obviously, Reynolds will play over there more than he has.”
Huff, who lost bids to make the club as a starter and reliever this spring, has spent the first month-plus of the season at Columbus, where he is 3-1 with a 4.07 ERA in nine games (two starts).
The left-hander made his season debut Sunday, allowing a hit and striking out two over 1 2/3 innings. He is expected to pitch out of the bullpen for Cleveland.
Right-hander Chris Perez was unavailable with a sore shoulder Sunday, but the right-hander warmed up in the ninth inning of the first game of the doubleheader, and Francona said he would have made an appearance had starter Justin Masterson run into trouble in the 1-0 victory.
“I warmed up. I’m fine, no issues,” Perez said after the doubleheader.
Perez (1-0, 0.69 ERA in 13 games) has converted six of seven save opportunities this season.
Setup man Vinnie Pestano (right elbow tendonitis) will likely begin a minor-league rehab assignment for Class A Lake County on Wednesday.
Pestano, who hasn’t pitched since April 28, is eligible to leave the disabled list Thursday.
The Indians are in Philadelphia for a two-game interleague series that begins tonight at 7:05.
Scott Kazmir (2-1, 4.87 ERA) opens the set for Cleveland, opposing RHP Jonathan Pettibone (2-0, 3.63), while Corey Kluber (2-2, 5.64) starts the series finale Wednesday (1:05 p.m.) against LHP Cole Hamels (1-5, 4.18).
Honoring a legend
The Indians held a ceremony between games of the doubleheader to pay tribute to longtime Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, who is retiring at the end of the season.
Cleveland’s team president, Mark Shapiro, presented Rivera, an 18-year veteran who owns the most saves in major league history — 623 through Sunday — with a gold record plaque in reference to the city’s rock-n-roll status.
Through Sunday, Rivera, 43, had notched 29 saves in 45 games against the Indians, but he also had a couple memorable blown saves.
In his first year as Yanks closer in 1997, Rivera allowed a game-tying homer to Sandy Alomar Jr. in the eighth inning of Game 4 of the ALDS, which Cleveland won 3-2, going on to win the series in five games. He also allowed a walk-off grand slam to unheralded Indians outfielder Bill Selby on July 14, 2002, in Cleveland.
Double-A Akron closer Jose Flores pitched two scoreless innings Sunday, allowing just a hit and striking out four, to get the decision in a 7-6 10-inning win at Reading. Flores, a non-drafted free-agent acquisition in 2005, entered Monday 3-0 with a 0.96 ERA and four saves in four opportunities over 15 appearances.
(bullet) Tyler Naquin hit his third homer in High A Carolina’s 11-4 loss to Lynchburg on Sunday. Naquin, Cleveland’s first-round draft pick last year — 15th overall — was batting .291 with 10 doubles and 15 RBIs in 35 games through Sunday.
The Indians entered Monday owning the best record in the majors (15-5) since April 20.
(bullet) Cleveland is 6-0 in games that have been decided in the seventh inning or later.
(bullet) Tonight, 7:05, STO/WTAM 1100-AM/WMMS 100.7-FM.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.