Notes: Little gives lineup a makeover
Pierre supplanting Furcal at leadoff spot among changes
LOS ANGELES -- Manager Grady Little shuffled the Dodgers batting order for Monday night's game.Little flopped the top two hitters, moving Juan Pierre to leadoff and dropping Rafael Furcal to second. He also switched the fifth and sixth hitters, elevating Russell Martin ahead of Luis Gonzalez, and moved third baseman Andy LaRoche (seventh) ahead of Andre Ethier (eighth). Nomar Garciaparra and Jeff Kent remain in the three and four slots. Little would not specify how long the experiment would last. "It will be more than one day," he said. Little had a simple answer as to why the changes. "Four runs in three days," he said, referring to the offensive production while the Dodgers were swept in Anaheim over the weekend. He wasn't as clear as to why the changes would awaken his club's sluggish offense. "We're just giving it a different look, and we'll see what happens," he said. "It's not necessarily having to do with anyone's non-production in a certain spot. It's for the sole purpose of given the entire lineup a different look." Oddly, the change means Little is taking his hottest hitter, Furcal, and moving him out of his preferred spot in the order and replacing him with Pierre, whose .305 on-base percentage is the lowest on the team among starters, largely because he's been hitting primarily fly balls. Furcal, in the midst of a nine-game hitting streak, has an on-base percentage of .369.
Pierre has been a leadoff hitter most of his career and was signed in the offseason to a five-year, $44 million deal even though the Dodgers already had a leadoff hitter in Furcal. Pierre said he didn't see the switch coming.
"I was caught off guard," Pierre said of the news. "Furcal is playing well. I just read the lineup and go play. Wherever I am, so be it. It came out of nowhere to me, but I've done it before. It's not like, 'Oh, my gosh.' Whatever it takes to help the team win. It's the same mentality. It's like riding a bike for me."
Furcal has said in the past that he prefers to bat leadoff, but he offered no public objection to moving in the hopes that it leads to more production from the rest of the lineup.
"If we're winning, I don't care," he said. "I don't think it will change anything for me. It's different if he gets on base, but if he's not on base, nothing changes. He was one of the best leadoff hitters in the game. I'm not surprised. The manager thinks he needs to change something so we can play better."Martin, tied for the club lead with 26 RBIs, has become one of the most productive hitters among National League catchers, and his .318 average leads the club starters. Gonzalez is batting .258 and has only half as many RBIs as Martin despite hitting one spot higher. The revamped lineup still is nothing like the one Little suggested he favored over the winter, before the signing of Gonzalez, which was intended to protect Kent. Back then, Little floated the idea of leading off Pierre, followed by Martin, Furcal, Kent and Garciaparra. Such an alignment now would increase the chances of consecutive hits. The Dodgers have strung consecutive hits only once in the last four games. Schmidt OK: Jason Schmidt came out of Sunday's simulated game in the bullpen without incident. "He felt good when he came in today," said Little. "We don't have a date for him to throw again, but it's very encouraging. He's anxious to get back out there." One tentative plan would have Schmidt throw a light bullpen session on Wednesday and face hitters on Friday, which would soon be followed by a Minor League rehabilitation assignment. Schmidt has been on the disabled list since April 15 with shoulder bursitis. Cutoff drills: It didn't last long, but right fielder Ethier was conspicuous in his absence when the Dodgers held a cutoff and relay drill on Monday. Ethier is the only starting outfielder with a strong throwing arm. Pierre and Gonzalez were joined by Brady Clark in throwing to cutoff infielders, who appeared a little deeper than normal, apparently a defensive adjustment the club is implementing to thwart clubs that run with impunity on the Dodgers' left and center fielders. A Win for WIN: Dodgers vice chairman and president Jamie McCourt will be honored on Tuesday in New York by Women's eNews as one of 21 exceptional individuals who make groundbreaking news by confronting issues of particular concern to women. McCourt, the highest ranking woman in baseball, was chosen from a reader-nominated list of hundreds of individuals that dedicate their lives to improving and empowering the lives the women. She is being recognized for her efforts to bring more women executives into baseball and to educate women about the thrills of the game through Dodgers WIN (Women's Initiative and Network). Coming up: Randy Wolf (5-3, 3.91 ERA) opposes Ben Sheets (4-2, 3.86) and the Brewers at 7:10 PT on Tuesday night. Wolf lost in Milwaukee on April 3, 4-3, when he allowed a two-run homer to Kevin Mench in the sixth inning.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.