During his first talk with reporters this spring, on Saturday, Jerry Manuel said he may try using Luis Castillo in the leadoff spot, while batting Jose Reyes third.
I did a chat with The Happy Recap last night, and I listened to a lot of talk radio this weekend, and I think people may be taking Manuel’s comments a little too literally.
Sure, Manuel may bat Castillo leadoff, but my guess is this is more of a spring-time motivational strategy than it is a permanent solution.
Manuel talked during the off-season about working to create an environment this spring that would help Castillo succeed, and batting him leadoff certainly gets him more pitches and allows him more freedom to start the game. Also, Castillo’s not even in camp yet, so by pumping him up and trusting him with more responsibility, and making him a big part of the offense before he even gets in camp, it, again, puts him in a leadership position and in a better chance to do well.
Manuel is clearly looking to preach the message of team this spring, not going so far as to say his team was selfish last year, but saying that to be successful his players need to be more team-first in their thinking.
“Stolen bases aren't important to me,” Manuel said, “It's important when you steal the base, you know what I'm saying. But, just to have the numbers aren't important. It's when you steal a base that's important.”
Manuel has also talked about challenging Reyes to utilize not only his instincts but his intelligence, and I bet by asking him to bat second or third for a bit in spring, it could help Reyes think differently, and be a smarter hitter.
Lastly, the whole shake-up could just be a way to, again, stress that it’s not about stats, it’s not about stolen base totals or RBI situations or home run numbers, it’s about making adjustments and doing what’s best for the team – so if Wright has to hit fifth one day, or Reyes bats third, so be it.
In the end, on Opening Day, I bet Reyes bats leadoff, Wright bats third, and so on, but for spring, I think it’s all up in the air.