DETROIT — Robin Ventura was going to shake things up in a fairly significant way Saturday, but a rainout at Comerica Park squashed the debut of slugger Jose Abreu as a No. 2 hitter in the lineup against Tigers lefty Kyle Ryan.
Baseball numbers crunchers have long advocated batting the best hitter second because it provides more at-bats over the course of a season for that hitter. When the lineup is turned over, it brings that hitter nearer to his next at-bat. It also reduces the number of at-bats of a lesser hitter, and the 2-hole has long been a problem for the Sox.
“We’ve had a tough go [against left-handers],” Ventura said. “Shuffling it up enough to move him up and give him another opportunity if it’s there. With a lineup you tend to shuffle and find something that works and this looks like a good move right now, to get him up there. Something to shuffle the deck.”
Ventura said it’s possible Abreu, who said he batted first and second when he was a younger and smaller man in Cuba, is used there more than once. If it happens to work the first time, which could be Sunday, look for it to stick. As Ventura noted, the Sox have not had production from the second spot — their .511 OPS there is more than 200 points lower than the league average.
“We’ll see how it goes, but I like having him bat that many times, definitely,” Ventura said.
The traditional, old-school view of the 2 hitter is the scrappy type who takes pitches, bunts and move runners along.
Asked tongue-in-cheek if Abreu will be asked to bunt, Ventura said, “He’s been practicing. He is pretty good [at bunting], but I’d prefer not to do that with him. I highly doubt he’d ever do it.”
Nor will Abreu, or should Abreu, change his manner.
“For him it doesn’t matter, just the way he swings the bat,” Ventura said. “He’s a guy that stays inside everything anyways, so it’s not like he’s changing anything to bat in the 2 hole. Just hope he gets a lot of opportunities.”
Abreu, who usually bats third, said he was surprised by the switch but was good with it.
“No, for me it doesn’t matter what spot in the lineup that I am,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “The only difference now being in the second spot is that I’m probably going to get one more at-bat and I’m going to see more pitches.”
Abreu, who has a .290/.341./.493 slash line with a team high 13 homers and 41 RBI, hits the ball to all fields. The only drawback for having him high in the order is his speed, although he does run fairly well for a big man.
“I’m going to keep my regular approach,” Abreu said.
“If I find the opportunity to hit the opposite field, I’m going to do it.”
Here’s how the Sox were going to line up Saturday: Adam Eaton CF, Abreu 1B, Avisail Garcia RF, Adam LaRoche DH, Melky Cabrera LF, Alexei Ramirez SS, Gordon Beckham 3B, Tyler Flowers C, Emilio Bonifacio 2B.