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Sox could break up righties, bat Benintendi 3rd

MLB.com @IanMBrowne

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Manager John Farrell is still experimenting with lineups, but there's a scenario in which rookie Andrew Benintendi could open the season as the No. 3 hitter for the Red Sox.

The fact that Farrell is even contemplating that move speaks of the level of respect the club has for Benintendi's advanced plate approach as a 22-year-old. But it also might be the best way for Farrell to balance a lineup in which arguably four of the club's best hitters hit right-handed. Benintendi is the only left-handed hitter out of the five.

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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Manager John Farrell is still experimenting with lineups, but there's a scenario in which rookie Andrew Benintendi could open the season as the No. 3 hitter for the Red Sox.

The fact that Farrell is even contemplating that move speaks of the level of respect the club has for Benintendi's advanced plate approach as a 22-year-old. But it also might be the best way for Farrell to balance a lineup in which arguably four of the club's best hitters hit right-handed. Benintendi is the only left-handed hitter out of the five.

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Dustin Pedroia would bat leadoff, followed by Xander Bogaerts, Benintendi, Mookie Betts and Hanley Ramirez.

Video: BOS@ATL: Benintendi cranks a solo home run to right

"Wherever they need me, wherever that may be, it doesn't really matter to me," said Benintendi, who was not in the lineup for Thursday's exhibition game against Team USA. "Approach or anything doesn't change for me. I'll be the same wherever I hit. Obviously there's a strategy behind it. You have to break up the righties. I'm just going to worry about hitting. Wherever they put me, they put me."

Farrell said he will tinker with that alignment when Bogaerts returns from the World Baseball Classic.

"You can probably make the argument those are our best five hitters in the top half of the lineup, and this is one way to give it as much balance as possible," said Farrell. "So I wouldn't rule it out. And like I said, we'll take a look at it when Bogey returns here late in camp."

It would definitely be a unique situation for the player with the fewest career plate appearances to be in perhaps the most coveted spot in the lineup. Then again, Benintendi -- the top-ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline.com -- is a unique hitter who responded on the fly last season when the Red Sox called him up in the middle of the pennant race.

Video: Red Sox's Benintendi named MLB's No. 1 prospect

"Well, with this lineup, you've got a lot of guys who could hit third," said Red Sox hitting coach Chili Davis. "He's one of them. Mookie, Pedey, Hanley, they're all good hitters. You usually try to put your best hitter third, but it's going to be tough to do when you have a lot of good hitters and can play the lefty-righty game.

"He could probably hit in a lot of spots: Leadoff because he runs well; he could hit second because he handles the bat well; he could hit third; I wouldn't put him fourth. He could hit down in the order too. [He's a] very versatile hitter."

The only drawback to this arrangement in Farrell's mind is that it could lessen the at-bats the dynamic Betts gets during the season.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox, Andrew Benintendi