McClendon experimenting with Weeks in leadoff role
Lloyd McClendon has endorsed center fielder Austin Jackson as a leadoff hitter ever since Seattle acquired him from the Tigers at last July’s Trade Deadline, but the Mariners skipper is toying with trying Rickie Weeks in that role at times this season as well.
McClendon had Weeks leading off and Jackson batting second in Wednesday night’s Cactus League game against the Cubs, the second time he’s tried that combination this spring. And it probably won’t be the last.
“I like Rickie as a leadoff hitter, too,” McClendon said. “Austin led off yesterday, Rickie is leading off today. I’m just playing with things. That’s all.”
Weeks won’t likely play every day, as he’s slated to split time in left field with Dustin Ackley while Jackson is the full-time center fielder. But McClendon is intrigued by the possibilities and feels Jackson is an excellent situational hitter, capable of moving runners and doing damage in the No. 2 spot as well.
“Every player is different. They all have their strengths and weaknesses,” McClendon said. “Rickie has close to 3,000 at-bats in the leadoff spot and 100 home runs. There’s a lot to like about him there. Austin is a speed guy that hits a lot of triples and doubles. They both bring a lot to the table.”
Of Weeks’ 1,026 career starts for the Brewers over the past 11 years, 623 came in the leadoff spot and he produced a .256/.353/.445 slash line in that role with 125 doubles, 22 triples and 100 home runs. He also started in the No. 2 spot 131 times, with a .232/.325/.385 line.
Jackson filled a leadoff role almost his entire career in Detroit, with 622 of his 695 starts coming there. Jackson’s career line while leading off is .276/.337/.405.
McClendon has talked much of the spring about Weeks being one of his No. 2 candidates in the order, along with right fielders Seth Smith and Justin Ruggiano. But he figures this is a good time to look at the options.
“I’m just playing with things and seeing what makes things tick a little better,” he said.
Ackley started in the No. 2 spot in 48 games last year and batted .233, though his OPS was .712 thanks in part to nine of his 14 home runs coming in that position. But McClendon prefers him at the bottom of the lineup.
“He’ll hit down in the order,” McClendon said. “I won’t make that mistake again. He was in a comfortable position and swinging very well and very productive in the bottom half of the order. To hit in the top half takes a different mindset and in some ways it probably messed with his psyche a little bit. And I knew that going in. I was just trying to find a spark.”
Here’s the full lineup for Wednesday’s 7:05 p.m. PT game against the Cubs, which will be televised live on ROOT Sports and MLB.TV.