ST. PETERSBURG -- Lonnie Chisenhall has been getting some extra work at first base during pregame drills for the better part of the past two weeks. In the eighth inning of Saturday's blowout loss to the Rays, he finally got to try his hand at the position in a game situation.
With Tampa Bay holding a 7-0 lead, Indians manager Terry Francona pulled first baseman Nick Swisher from the game and sent Chisenhall to the position for the first time in his career.
"I think we always try to turn something into a positive," Francona said. "That's our responsibility. One inning certainly isn't going to make [much difference], but it's a start. You're always trying to think of something during the game to help somewhere, whether it's getting a guy an at-bat, getting a guy off his feet, something to try to help."
A couple weeks ago, Chisenhall was asked if he was willing to give first base a try, and the third baseman obliged.
"It doesn't matter to me," Chisenhall said on Sunday. "You want to be in the lineup. You want to help the team win if you're swinging the bat well, or there's chances for you to come in defensively, or you're running and come in to play defense.
"The more options the better at this point. Last night they started a lefty, yet if you pinch-hit, you have the ability to go to more than one position. That's kind of how I look at it."
Through 25 games this season, Chisenhall has hit .348 with seven doubles and 12 runs scored for the Indians, who have used him nearly exclusively against right-handed pitching. That approach by Francona has paid off with Chisenhall, who leads the team's "regulars" with a .321/.379/.500 slash line (118 plate appearances) dating back to Sept. 1 of last year.
Chisenhall has started 11 games as a designated hitter and 10 as a third baseman this season for Cleveland. He does not want to be known as a utility player, but he also is increasingly understanding of the idea of adding more versatility to his game.
"You don't want to be labeled as a utility guy or a non-position guy too early," Chisenhall said. "Fortunately, I feel like I can play just about anywhere. So, it's not a problem. I'm here and I'm here to help the team now. It's not [like] I have to play third base or I only want to play third base. I just want to do whatever it takes."
Francona, Indians enjoy MLB's Mother's Day traditions
ST. PETERSBURG -- Indians manager Terry Francona was proud to have a pink ribbon stitched into his shirt for Sunday's Mother's Day game, a 6-5 win over the Rays. Francona has also enjoyed seeing players embrace the cause over the past few years.
Each Mother's Day, players and coaches around the league don pink gear to help raise awareness for breast cancer. Francona's mother, Roberta, passed away of the disease, so the day hits home with him every season.
"My mom passed away because of breast cancer," Francona said prior to the Indians' 6-5 win over the Rays. "I actually think that any time you're trying to do something for somebody else [it's good.] I personally think this cause deserves [attention]. I'm not sure who hasn't been affected by it. I mean, my goodness. So, personally, it gives me something to think about when I put it on.
"Regardless of that, any time MLB or whatever wants to try to do something to help other people, I think it's awesome. I really do. I think stuff like that in our game gets overlooked probably too much. I get it. I know what sells and what doesn't, but there's so many good things that the players do, that the league does. To support something like that is so easy."
During the game, multiple players sported pink sleeves, armbands, cleats and bats in honor of the day. Indians catcher Yan Gomes, whose wife recently gave birth to their first child, launched a home run with a pink bat in the sixth inning. He said he plans on giving one of the game-used bats to his mom and the other to his wife.
Indians infielder Mike Aviles also used a pink bat, and wore a pink elbow guard.
I think it's great," Aviles said. "You're definitely showing your love for Mother's Day. I have nothing but women in my life. I have three daughters, a wife, a great mom, mother-in-law, grandmas. It's just my way to show everybody I love them and let them know I'm thinking of them on this day. They're big parts of my life, that's for sure."
After rough week, Axford takes breather
ST. PETERSBURG -- In need of an escape, art aficionado John Axford wandered out of the team's hotel on Saturday and explored the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg. For a couple of hours, the displaced closer could steer his focus away from the mound.
Axford, who bears a tattoo of flowers on his left arm that is based on Dali's work, said the walk around the museum was welcomed.
"I enjoy art, so I made sure I did that instead of baseball for a little while," Axford said on Sunday morning. "I got my mind off of it. Sometimes you have to take those breaks and then, when you're at the field, you have to bring yourself back in."
The Indians temporarily removed Axford from the closer's role on Saturday after his season-long issues with falling behind developed into an extremely rough week on the hill. While Axford sorts out some mechanical flaws and searches for consistency, Cleveland manager Terry Francona plans on using any combination of Cody Allen, Scott Atchison, Marc Rzepczynski and Bryan Shaw in the ninth inning.
Axford was understandably upset when Francona delivered that news.
"Obviously, it's pretty disappointing," Axford said. "Things didn't go very well for a week. Not only not very well, they went bad. Hopefully this is just a good opportunity to take a step back and get things back to where they were, and even better than what they were in April."
Axford, who has 115 career saves, has nine saves in 11 chances this season, but the lanky right-hander also entered Sunday's action with nearly as many walks (13) as strikeouts (15) through 14 2/3 innings. Over his past four appearances, Axford had toiled through 102 pitches in three innings, in which he gave up five runs on six hits (two home runs) with six walks and five strikeouts.
Axord's season ERA ballooned from 2.31 to 4.91 in those four outings.
"It's just unfortunate that a good month led into a bad week," Axford said, "and then a bad week turns into, 'Let's try and regroup and figure things out.'"
Francona has stressed that the goal is to get Axford back into the ninth inning at some point.
"What's important is, when things like that do happen, where do you go from there?" Francona said. "Do you make it good? Do you let it beat you up? Ax was really respectful. We saw kind of a little bit of a trend where he was working behind a lot.
"I know he had a bad week, but even in some of the saves, there were some times he was working behind."
Quote to note
"The only answer I can give you is that, when we put him back in the closer's role, we want to keep him there. So, we want to see consistency and things like that."
--Indians manager Terry Francona, on John Axford
• The Indians adjusted their probable starting pitchers for the upcoming series in Toronto. Cleveland will start Justin Masterson and Corey Kluber on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, to keep them on a normal five-day schedule. Danny Salazar (originally penciled in for Tuesday) will now pitch on Thursday, giving him seven days of rest between outings.
"You try to do what's kind of in the best interest of everybody," Francona said. "Sometimes that's not the easiest thing, but I think keeping Masty and Kluber on their day was important. And then we also thought giving Danny a couple [extra days] might not be so bad, either."
• Catcher George Kottaras, who was designated for assignment by the Indians on Wednesday, has cleared waivers. On May 4, Kottaras became the first batter in Indians history to launch a home run in each of his first two career plate appearances with the club. He has 72 hours to decide whether to accept or decline an outright assignment to the Minors.
• Francona gave Swisher the option of taking Sunday's game off, providing two straight days of rest with a team off-day looming on Monday. Swisher agreed that taking a game off could be beneficial. Entering Sunday, Swisher was batting .146 (6-for-41) in his past 13 games, following a nine-game stretch in which he hit .333 (12-for-36).
"We kind of gave him his choice," Francona said. "We have a plan every night of how we want to go through it, like a checklist. I told Swish if he needed a day, if he thought it'd be good for him, [he could have one]. He did."
• Utility man Elliot Johnson, who accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Columbus on Friday, was officially added to the Clippers' roster on Sunday. In order to add Johnson to the fold, the Indians released Triple-A pitcher Brett Brach, who had an 8.10 ERA in 6 2/3 innings this season.