Rockies experimenting with Arenado in 2 spot
Club wants slugger to have more at-bats over the course of the season
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Batting second in your Colorado Rockies order: Nolan Arenado?
In the regular season, it may happen, according to Arenado and manager Bud Black. Arenado has been hitting in the second spot this spring. The idea is to get the slugger more plate appearances, especially late in games, and wreak havoc with the opposing manager’s pitching plan.
"Whatever helps the team win," Arenado said before Sunday’s game against the Giants -- his fifth appearance in the No. 2 slot in as many Cactus League games. "We’ve talked about it -- trying to get used to it in Spring Training. That’s why I’m hitting there right now.
"It’s taking a little time. I’m still not used to it, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing. A lot of good players hit second, and [Black] wants me to get better pitches. They think that’s what’s going to happen, and I guess they have the homework to prove that."
Arenado came through on Sunday with his second spring homer, a two-run shot in the fifth after Charlie Blackmon had worked a one-out walk, in a game the Rockies went on to win, 9-3.
Arenado, who led the National League last season with 38 homers and has tied or led the league on two other occasions, has hit second just 23 times in his career (22 starts) -- and not once since 2015. He has played 405 career games hitting third and 219 hitting cleanup, and all that production led to the eight-year, $260 million contract that Arenado signed a few days ago.
But Black likes the idea of the extra at-bats for his main run producer (Arenado has an MLB-leading 564 RBIs since 2014), and the potential for messing with the opponent’s bullpen matchups by alternating lefties and righties in the order. One potential iteration of the batting lineup could be: Blackmon, Arenado, Daniel Murphy, Trevor Story, David Dahl -- plus Ian Desmond, then possibly Ryan McMahon and Chris Iannetta.
And it’s Spring Training, which means it’s time for experimentation. With bullpen usage a growing part of team strategy -- to the point where teams use a closer-type as an “opener” against heavily right- or left-handed tops of lineups -- rearranging the batting order is an idea worth exploring.
"Why not?" Black said. "Why not a regular game? We may be trying it out. You like that? Charlie-Nolan-Murphy. We can talk about it moving forward, what we’re thinking. ... If you can imagine, we talk about these things."
It’s not going to be an old-time lineup, where Blackmon slaps the ball to get on base and scores with his legs -- he has 95 homers compared to 43 stolen bases over the past three seasons. And, to put it mildly, Arenado will not devote his at-bats to simply putting the ball in play as Blackmon takes off for second.
"I hope I’m not hitting-and-running; I hope I’m just hitting," Arenado said.
In the NL last season, No. 2 hitters received 11,103 plate appearances, compared to 10,856 for No. 3 hitters and 10,609 for cleanup men. The RBIs tilted toward the cleanup (1,410) and No. 3 hitters (1,401) over the guys hitting second (1,162). But a key may be late-game opportunities, where the higher a hitter is in the order, the greater chance he has to bat again once the lineup turns over.
"It’s more having those at-bats late in the game," Arenado said. "That’s kind of what we’re going for."