Arenado bats third for first time this spring

Black not committed to regular spot for third baseman

March 20th, 2019

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Rockies’ idea of placing third baseman Nolan Arenado in the second spot in the batting order is still experimental, it turns out.

After hitting in the two-hole his first 15 Spring Training games, Arenado was in the three-hole for Tuesday night’s game against the Angels, with left-handed hitters Charlie Blackmon and Daniel Murphy in front of him. The way manager Bud Black explained it, it’s best to check the lineup each game. The idea of Arenado batting second was to get more at-bats, and have a better chance of his spot coming up late in games.

“It’s part of looking at all our options moving forward,” Black said. “I think you can see Nolan at any time in the two-hole, three-hole, four-hole, based on what you’ve seen the last couple years. I wouldn’t read anything into it, except Nolan hopefully hits in the first inning once the season starts. You know what that means, that we didn’t go 1-2-3.”

Arenado has just 22 regular-season starts, 23 games total, batting second, and none since 2015. Last season, Arenado started 129 games in the third position and made his other 29 starts from cleanup. Arenado said Tuesday he believes “this season I don’t think I’m going to be in a specific spot,” and hitting second all spring allowed him to “get comfortable.”

Arenado said batting second has been “definitely different, but it’s pretty comfortable now” and pitchers seem to want to challenge him in the strike zone if Blackmon is on base.

“The last thing you want to do is walk me and have first and second no outs, and it helps that Murphy might behind me,” Arenado said.

But when asked where he feels most comfortable, Arenado expressed it clearly.

“Three or four is where I’m at -- that’s who I am,” Arenado said. “I like hitting with guys on base. That’s what I do. I’ve done that the last four or five years now. That’s where I feel the most comfortable.

“At the same time, we’re trying to win ballgames, and if being in the two-hole is going to help us win ballgames, I’ve got to do it.”

Arenado leads the Majors with 564 RBIs since the start of the 2014 season, and he has tied for or led the National League in homers three of the last four seasons hitting third and fourth. But last season, NL No. 2 hitters received 11,103 plate appearances, compared to 10,856 for No. 3 hitters. And, logically, it is more likely that the No. 2 hitter will come up later in a game than a hitter behind him.

“I haven’t seen any difference,” Black said of Arenado’s approach and effectiveness in the No. 2 spot this spring.

Arenado, preparing for the first season of an eight-year, $260 million contract, entered Tuesday night hitting .275 with a .326 on-base percentage and a .500 slugging percentage, with two homers and three doubles in 40 at-bats. He had five strikeouts against three walks.

Arenado was 7-for-14 with doubles in three of his last five Cactus League games going into Tuesday night. Interestingly, though, he had just one RBI in those five games. NL stats last year showed No. 2 hitters drove in fewer runs than those in the next spots – 1,162 RBIs for No. 2 hitters, compared to 1,401 for the three-hole and 1,410 for cleanup men.

On Tuesday, he went 2-for-3 with a double and a run scored in the Rockies' 9-7 loss.

More important than spring stats and the batting-order discussion, Arenado believes he is finding his swing.

“It kind of reminds me of the 2017 Spring Training, where it took me a while to get going, even with the WBC [World Baseball Classic],” Arenado said. “I couldn’t find anything comfortable. Last year I felt like I was ready pretty quickly, this year it’s taken a little bit of time.

“I’m OK with how long Spring Training is, personally. I need the time to get going.”