Diaz playing solid defense at third base

Indians rookie looking for offense to catch up

Diaz playing solid defense at third base

PHOENIX -- Yasmany Tomas chopped a pitch up the third-base line and Indians rookie Yandy Diaz charged in. The third baseman grabbed the bouncer with his bare hand and threw across the diamond, getting the out at first for a second-inning gem in Friday's 7-3 loss to the D-backs.

"He's really played a good third base," manager Terry Francona said on Saturday. "That was a nice play."

Defense was the main question mark hovering over Diaz during Spring Training, when Cleveland had a roster spot to fill with second baseman Jason Kipnis opening the season on the 10-day disabled list. The Indians moved Jose Ramirez from third to second, and rolled the dice on Diaz, who is more polished as a hitter than as a third baseman.

In the first week of the season, Diaz has looked solid in the field for the Tribe. He made a diving catch to his right in the season opener on Monday, robbing Texas' Nomar Mazara of a possible hit. Friday night's barehanded grab-and-throw was another play to add to Diaz's highlight reel.

Offensively, Diaz has hit only .200 through his first 16 plate appearances, but the sample size is small. Francona has been impressed by the rookie's approach and pointed out that Diaz has run into some tough luck. To that end, Diaz entered Saturday as one of only 18 Major Leaguers (and the only Indians player) with at least three balls in play with an exit velocity of 106 mph or higher, per Statcast™. Only one of the three went for a hit.

"That kind of puts a dent in your average," Francona said. "But, I think his at-bats have been solid, too. I think Yandy, you're going to look up a couple years from now and he's going to be doing some severe damage. Just the way he hits, the way he's built, I think he's got so much room to get better, and it's exciting."

Other items of note from Saturday:

• Right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall (on the 10-day DL with a right shoulder issue) went 1-for-4 for Triple-A Columbus in his first Minor League rehab assignment Friday. He is scheduled to play the outfield for Columbus on Saturday, and is on target to be activated in time for Tuesday's home opener. Kipnis (right shoulder) is set to begin a rehab assignment with Double-A Akron on Sunday.

• Francona is looking for spots early in the season to give left fielder Michael Brantley some rest, considering he is coming back from multiple surgeries on his right arm. With a lefty (Patrick Corbin) starting for the D-backs on Sunday, Brantley might be out of the lineup, according to Francona.

• When Kipnis is ready to be activated, Francona said he plans on sitting down with the second baseman and Brantley to get their thoughts on the batting order. As of now, the manager is not sure how he will handle the lineup when Kipnis comes back.

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.