August's Defensive Player of the Month: Lonnie Chisenhall

Lonnie Chisenhall's play in right field has helped give the Indians hope in the AL wild-card chase. Matt Brown/Angels Baseball LP/Getty Images

The transition from third base to right field has worked out quite well quite quickly for Cleveland Indians utility man Lonnie Chisenhall.

The selection might surprise you, but it’s one made on merit. Chisenhall is the SweetSpot Defensive Player of the Month for August.

Chisenhall wins the award despite never having played right field in the major leagues before the past few days in July. He finished August with eight Defensive Runs Saved, showing skill both at catching fly balls and using his throwing arm to deter baserunners.

It was a great month all around for Chisenhall, who hit .403 with a 1.026 OPS in 67 August at-bats.

Chisenhall may not have the flash of Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier, who won the award in June and closed August with a spectacular home run robbery of Manny Machado. But he might get to that point someday given the skills he's shown.

Chisenhall’s switch may have slid under the national radar, as the Indians hadn't been in wild-card contention until a recent six-game winning streak boosted them in the standings, but it’s been a smooth transition.

He made the move from third base to right field after being sent to the minors in early June, when he was hitting just .209. He'd been having a much-improved season at the hot corner from a defensive perspective, but with Giovanny Urshela doing a nice job in his absence, Chisenhall understood the importance of versatility. The Indians coaching staff was confident he could handle it.

“He has all the attributes of a good right fielder,” said Indians bench coach Brad Mills. “He has a good arm, quick feet and he works hard. He does a good job every day taking balls off the bat pregame and he works hard every day. He has always shagged balls during early hitting and batting practice the last few years and I think that has helped him with the transition.”

He adapted to his new position quickly, despite playing just four games there in Triple-A prior to his return to Cleveland (he did play the position at South Carolina).

“I had some nerves before the first game, but each game has gotten a little bit better,” he said by phone Tuesday night.

There was a lot to learn as he went, including the configurations of challenging outfields like Fenway Park. Mills and manager Terry Francona helped a lot with that, walking him through the issues he might encounter.

"They had a good idea of what the ball would do," Chisenhall said.

Chisenhall is used to lateral movement as a former third baseman (he described himself using that term) but now has to get used to making the decision of moving forward or moving back on fly balls and line drives.

“Going forward has been easier than going back,” he said. "Breaking back has been hard, so I’ve been playing deep a lot.”

Playing deep also gives him the chance of making Kiermaier-like catches, an idea that drew a laugh from Chisenhall.

“I don’t know if I can get that high, but I can see myself doing that.”

Given what he’s done in making this move, why not?