Amid a testy start to the season - looking at you, Bryan Price; also you, Royals, White Sox and Athletics - comes a bit of managerial creativity sure to put a smile on the face of any innovative Strat-O-Matic player.
More National League teams are at least toying with the idea of batting the pitcher in the No. 8 spot. Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon has done it quite a bit, and the New York Mets, Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies have also given it a try.
It sounds like the type of experiment you’d attempt as a joke in a video game, but there is logic behind the move. Batting the pitcher eighth allows a regular hitter to bat ninth, and the hope is that the top of the order will then come up with somebody already on base, giving the offense a better chance at a big inning.
The drawback is that when the pitcher bats eighth, his spot will come up earlier and more often, in the long run.
The Cubs have used infield prospect Addison Russell in the No. 9 spot lately, while the Diamondbacks put shortstop Nick Ahmed at the bottom of their order a couple times last week.
Arizona manager Chip Hale said he was hoping slugger Paul Goldschmidt - batting third - might get a few more RBI opportunities out of the switch.
“We’re just trying to get some more guys on in front of Goldy is what it comes down to,” Hale said.
Tony La Russa, who is now an executive in the Arizona organization, would bat his pitcher eighth on occasion when he managed the St. Louis Cardinals.
“What he told me when we talked about it is he did it not trying to change the game, he did it just to try to - they were struggling with offense and getting guys on in front of (Albert) Pujols at the time,” Hale said. “And we just want to get some more guys in front of Goldy.”
Here are a few other noteworthy developments from around baseball last week:
Kansas City is off to a fine start this year, but manager Ned Yost now has to deal with the fallout from Thursday’s brawl against the Chicago White Sox. Pitchers Yordano Ventura (seven games), Edinson Volquez (five) and Kelvin Herrera (two) were suspended along with outfielder Lorenzo Cain (two). Herrera was already appealing a five-game ban from a previous brouhaha against Oakland.
White Sox pitchers Chris Sale and Jeff Samardzija were also suspended.
Depending on how the appeal process shakes out, the suspensions could be good news for the Tigers. Detroit faces Kansas City seven times from April 30-May 10, with a three-game series against the White Sox sandwiched in between.
After 19 games last year, Texas was 11-7, so the Rangers are 63-99 in their last 162. Although the injury to Yu Darvish has hurt, it’s the offense that is the main culprit so far. Texas is hitting .211 as a team.
It’s been a rough start to the season for some of the game’s most productive catchers. Jonathan Lucroy, Yan Gomes, Matt Wieters and Travis d’Arnaud are all on the disabled list.
Mets catcher Kevin Plawecki has already homered once in d’Arnaud’s absence, and Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph has hit .311 with Wieters still working his way back from elbow surgery.
LINE OF THE WEEK
Felix Hernandez, Mariners, struck out nine in a five-hit shutout to lead Seattle to a 2-0 win over Minnesota on Friday. Hernandez’s counterpart, Phil Hughes, also went the distance but fell to 0-4 on the season. Hughes has gotten a total of two runs of support during his four starts.
AP Sports Writer John Marshall contributed to this report.
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