In a bit of a surprising move, Jerry Manuel announced to reporters that he plans to have leftfielder Dan Murphy batting second in the lineup. The move means that Luis Castillo would become the eight place hitter.
It’s a move that has been debated for months here on this site, and one that will make many Mets fans happy.
Adam Rubin of the Daily News explains:
Despite only 131 big-league at-bats on his resume, Murphy’s approach at the plate has impressed Jerry Manuel so much that the skipper plans to place Murphy directly after Jose Reyes in his lineup. The plan would also entail placing Luis Castillo in the No. 8 hole.
Manuel didn’t list his complete lineup, but it’s reasonable to expect Murphy would be followed by Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, David Wright, Ryan Church, Brian Schneider, Castillo and the pitcher.
“I’m confident that I can go out there and try to put a quality at-bat on them every time,” said Murphy, who hit .313 with two homers and 17 RBI during his rookie season. “That’s what my goal is. It’s not numbers. It’s not hits. It’s not home runs. It’s not doubles or RBI. It’s quality at-bats.”
It’s my belief and I know it’s a very small sample size, that Murphy has exhibited the plate discipline to handle such an important role. He will have to be selective at the plate, and when Reyes is standing on first base, he will have to allow that plate discipline not to distract him.
At times, Murphy may even be asked to lay down a bunt more frequently than he is accustomed to, but I believe he has the temperament to handle all the situational hitting that comes with batting second in between Reyes and Beltran or Wright.
The Mets used 10 different hitters in the two spot last season.
Rubin also mentions that Manuel has often said Murphy’s plate discipline – his unwillingness to swing at pitches out of the strike zone – is far more advanced than most hitters of similar age. Murphy, who turns 24 in 10 days, last week even drew unsolicited praise from Braves manager Bobby Cox, who wondered aloud how to pitch Murphy to get him out.
Of course, this news will be accompanied by all the adverse reactions from those who say the Mets bottom of the order will make it to easy for opposing pitchers, but I disagree.
I do expect both Schneider and Castillo to make marked improvements over last season’s numbers and that the bottom of the order will be more productive than what some may think. Both players have come to camp in better shape than last spring, and each of them have spen extra time in the cage and the results can be seen in their spring at-bats thus far.
This is a great move by Manuel, and one that should be applauded.