Francona: Indians third base situation still unsettled

USA TODAY Sports

Terry Francona is still unsure about who will start the season at third base for the Indians.

Indians manager Terry Francona still doesn't know who will be the team's starting third baseman once the season begins.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Francona said, "If I told you that I knew what we were going to be doing at third base, I wouldn't be telling you the truth," according to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer's Zack Meisel.

The Indians had an impressive campaign in 2013, winning 92 games and finishing just a game back from the Tigers in the AL Central. Yet third base was one of the team's few weak spots, with Lonnie Chisenhall, Mike Aviles, and Mark Reynolds combining to hit just .230/.286/.376 at the hot corner.

Coming into 2014, third base remains a big question mark for Cleveland. Chisenhall and Aviles are returning, and both will undoubtedly get some time at third this season. In addition, catcher Carlos Santana is also taking reps at third base this spring and hopes to provide another option at third base for the Indians.

A former top prospect, Chisenhall's career has stalled in the majors, with the 25-year-old batting .225/.270/.398 during his third big-league campaign. Chisenhall's biggest problem has been his struggles against left-handed pitching. He has hit just .194/.225/.387 against southpaws throughout his career.

Aviles didn't fare much better than Chisenhall last season, posting a .252/.282/.368 line in 394 plate appearances. The struggles of Aviles and Chisenhall, along with Cleveland's inability to upgrade at third base this offseason, prompted the idea that Santana could give the position a try this season. There is little denying that Santana's bat would be a huge improvement, as the 27-year-old hit .268/.377/.455 with 20 home runs in 2013 while spending time at catcher and first base.

Beyond playing third in the Dominican winter league this offseason, however, Santana has no professional experience at the position, something that could prevent him from being a viable option. The Indians are looking to move him off the catcher position in hopes of preserving Santana's health, but there is no evidence that he can play defense well enough to stick at the hot corner.

Judging by his own words, Francona is unsure about the whole situation, too. Given the limitations that Aviles, Chisenhall and Santana all have, some type of time share at third base is the most likely outcome. How Francona ultimately manages the situation is anybody's (including Francona's himself) guess.

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