Opening Day lineup? That’s a pretty good guess
With less than two weeks until Opening Day — 13 days to be exact — manager Lloyd McClendon is trotting out a lineup that looks like a pretty good replica of the group that likely will face Angels right-hander Jered Weaver on April 6 at Safeco Field.
Not that McClendon was admitting to such.
At his morning meeting with the media, the second-year skipper playfully rejected any notion that Tuesday’s starting nine had any significance and claimed bench coach Trent Jewett — who is the one who fills out the lineup card each day — had put together the batting order.
“I don’t even know what the lineup is,” McClendon said. “It’s his handwriting. Technically he made the lineup out. Go ask him.”
McClendon said he hasn’t decided on an Opening Day batting order yet, but pressed further on whether he liked Tuesday’s collection, he couldn’t help but concede.
“Yeah, I like that lineup,” he said.
There aren’t any big surprises there. McClendon has said from the start of camp that Austin Jackson is his leadoff hitter. He likes either Seth Smith, Justin Ruggiano or Rickie Weeks in the No. 2 spot, depending on who is playing that day. The 3-4-5 order of Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager has been much talked about since Cruz signed in December.
The skipper has also said he’ll likely bat his shortstop ninth, whether it was Brad Miller or Chris Taylor. And with Taylor sidelined, Miller indeed is penciled in the No. 9 spot today.
That leaves the 6-7-8 spots and Logan Morrison, Mike Zunino and Dustin Ackley makes for a left-right-left combo there. Those spots could certainly get shuffled, but I’d guess that’s the preferred slotting if they’re all hitting as expected.
Ackley hit second in 50 games last year, but his .233 batting average and .277 on-base percentage in that slot led McClendon to prefer him lower in the order when possible. If Ackley produces consistently for a good stretch, I could see him getting bumped up in the order at some point. But McClendon’s current preference is Smith, who has a career .347 on-base percentage compared to Ackley’s .309.
One obvious note: Today’s starter is J.A. Happ, not Felix Hernandez. Happy likely opens the year as the No. 4 starter, though McClendon said he won’t likely define his pitching rotation until three or four days before the start of the season.