Pirates lineup gets jolt from ex-Indians Lonnie Chisenhall, Erik Gonzalez | TribLIVE.com
Pirates/MLB

Pirates lineup gets jolt from ex-Indians Lonnie Chisenhall, Erik Gonzalez

Chris Adamski
703389_web1_gtr-Lonnie-112718
AP
The Indians’ Lonnie Chisenhall hits an RBI single during the first inning against the Cardinals on Tuesday, June 26, 2018, in St. Louis.

Twenty-two percent of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 2019 projected opening day lineup was imported during the offseason down Interstate 76.

Barring injury or an unexpected spring roster move, Lonnie Chisenhall and Erik Gonzalez are expected to be the names manager Clint Hurdle writes in at right field and shortstop, respectively, when the Pirates begin the regular season at Cincinnati.

Each spent last season with the Cleveland Indians. Chisenhall signed with the Pirates as a free agent in November, and Gonzalez came over in a five-player trade earlier that month.

“Me and Chisenhall had a good relationship on the Indians,” Gonzalez said at PiratesFest. “I’ve known him (for) years, and I‘ve talked to him everywhere about the game and I think he’s going to be like a go-to man for me right here because I know him, and I’m so glad he’s here with me now, too.”

Chisenhall and Gonzalez are at different stages in their careers, and each inherits a likely starting gig in Pittsburgh under a different circumstance.

For the 30-year-old Chisenhall, his full-time spot in front of the Clemente Wall is expected to be temporary. The hole there figures to last about a month or two until Gregory Polanco can return from September surgery on his left shoulder.

Signing with the Pirates gives Chisenhall a chance to play every day and re-establish himself as a major league regular after injuries limited him to 111 games the past two seasons. The majority of the missed games were because of his calves.

“The worst part is there’s still no definitive (reason) why (the calf injuries) happened,” Chisenhall said. “But right now, since it healed completely in August, I feel great. I haven’t had an offseason like this since probably three years ago, before the first injury in ’17. So I feel good.”

Chisenhall had quality production when he was able to play over the past three seasons: .291 average, .815 OPS and 21 home runs in 705 at-bats. If he can match that this season, Chisenhall not only would make the early absence of Polanco palatable, it also would give the Pirates a steady left-handed bat that can fill in at the corner infield and outfield positions.

Going into a season under a one-year contract (worth $2.75 million), Chisenhall has a financial incentive to revitalize his career.

“There has been not even a sign of how I felt in the (recent) past,” he said. “Last offseason was a struggle even preparing for last season. … I feel good about where I am now, and I am pretty sure (the calf-injury issues) are in the rearview mirror.”

Gonzalez comes to Pittsburgh with a full season’s worth of MLB game experience (162) but with starts in just 57 of those games. He and the Pirates maintain the lack of extensive playing time had more to do with the star-caliber players in front of him in Cleveland than Gonzalez’s abilities.

Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor is one of the game’s best, and he tied with Cleveland third baseman Jose Ramirez for the eighth-best Wins Above Replacement (7.9) in the majors last season. At second base is a two-time All-Star in Jason Kipnis.

“It will be great to see him maybe be on little bigger stage (because) it’s been tough to be behind those guys,” Chisenhall said. “He’s a great player, a very hard worker.”

Gonzalez described playing with Lindor and Gonzalez as “a joy,” but he’s been all the more joyous since the trade.

“I am thankful for the Indians because they gave me an opportunity to sign and gave me an opportunity in the big leagues,” Gonzalez said. “But I need to play baseball. That’s why I am in the big leagues because I want to play baseball.”

Like longtime teammate Chisenhall, he’s in line to get that chance on a daily basis for the Pirates.


Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris at [email protected] or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.


Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Sports | Pirates
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.