When you tune in to watch your favorite big league team, chances are you have a pretty good idea what the lineup is going to look like.
For instance, this year with the Phillies if Cesar Hernandez is playing, he’s likely going to be at the top of the order. Carlos Santana and Rhys Hoskins, when healthy, are going to be somewhere in the middle. Typically in the majors, when a player is a moved out of a spot he has been hitting in for a majority of the season, it will make headlines.
But if you’ve been paying any attention to the Lehigh Valley IronPigs’ lineup over the last week, you’ll notice there hasn’t been the same consistency. Some of that can be attributed to the personnel changes with Dylan Cozens getting recalled by the Phillies, Andrew Pullin announcing his retirement, Matt McBride going on the Temporary Inactive List for a few days and Adron Chambers completing his suspension. Even the players there all week have bounced around the order.
One of the players finding his name in a different spot most of last week, before settling into the third spot in the order for each of the three games against the Toledo Mud Hens, was outfielder Danny Ortiz. In six games from May 26 to May 31, Ortiz hit in six different spots in the lineup — 1, 2, 6, 8, 3 and 4 respectively.
“That’s the way it is sometimes,” IronPigs manager Gary Jones said. “Sometimes you move guys around just to get a look to see what it might look like for you. Each manager is different as far as how they want to construct their lineup. There is no one way to do it, a right way or a wrong way to construct a lineup.”
Where he is hitting doesn’t matter to Ortiz, as long as he’s in the lineup somewhere.
“I just mentally prepare for everything,” Ortiz said. “So hitting first, second, third there’s no worry. I just stay ready for the game and play hard.”
Ortiz’s approach the first time he steps in the box each game doesn’t change based on where he is on the lineup card, he said. He doesn’t give that much thought. The only thing that affects his approach is game situations. Does he have a runner to move over with less than two outs? Is someone in scoring position that he can knock in for an RBI?
“Just pay attention to the game and concentrate on good at-bats,” Ortiz said.
In the minors, the easy part is figuring out who is going to be in the lineup. Jones said age plays a big factor. Getting a 23-year-old playing time will often take priority over a 31-year-old, he explained.
“It’s not rocket science,” Jones said. “It’s not difficult. You know the guys that should be out there every day.”
When it comes to where to slot them, it’s not as clear cut.
With an idea of who he wants hitting where, Jones begins at the leadoff spot and works his way, in order, down to nine.
Even though its the minors, winning is what is the most important thing on Jones’ mind while working his way through the order. Yes, Triple-A is supposed to be for development but Jones believes the two go hand in hand. If he writes out a winning lineup, it will go far in aiding the development of his players.