Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Jim Riggleman may bat Elijah Dukes seventh or even eighth at times this year.
Most nights, Washington's 1 through 6 hitters were set: Nyjer Morgan, Cristian Guzman, Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn, Josh Willingham, Elijah Dukes. And with all six of those players back in 2010, common wisdom would seem to indicate they'll remain lined up just like that.
To which Jim Riggleman says: Not so fast.
As he sits around scribbling down potential lineups on napkins this spring, the Nationals manager has been toying with a somewhat different idea. As things currently stand, he may decide to go with something like this...
Adam Kennedy batting sixth, with Dukes perhaps batting eighth? Yes, it's a possibility.
On the surface, the idea of Kennedy (whose career average over a 162-game season is eight homers, 58 RBI and a .391 slugging percentage) batting sixth instead of Dukes (whose similar career averages are 21 homers, 83 RBI and a .421 slugging percentage) sounds conspicuous, to say the least. But here's Riggleman's thinking on the matter...
"With the addition of Kennedy and Pudge, there's a possibility [Dukes] is going to hit lower in the lineup," the manager said. "We played around a little bit last year with Dukes hitting second, but Guzman is very comfortable in the second spot. I like having Kennedy behind Willingham, a left-handed bat behind Willingham. We'd have a right-handed bat behind Dunn and a left-handed bat behind Zimmerman. I'm not real big on things having to be left-right-left-right, but when Willingham is swinging good, it would be nice for a right-handed pitcher to realize: 'If I don't pitch to him, there's a pretty good left-handed hitter behind him.' So that would be the likely scenario. As far as 7 or 8, just see how that unfolds with Pudge and Dukes."
Before anyone gets all flustered over this, Riggleman added that much could change moving forward. Truth be told, he may not stick with a conventional 1-though-8 all season, mixing and matching along the way.
"I don't think we're going to have a lineup where we say: These are the guys who hit in these slots every day," he said. "In a perfect world, that's probably what happens. But very few clubs are able to stay in their slots based on if a left-hander is pitching today or a right-hander. Sometimes, there's fluctuation there. So it's a possibility Dukes could be hitting lower."