Stubbs candidate for leadoff role

Published 1:38 am Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Associated Press

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Reds manager Dusty Baker has to make a decision that starts right at the top.

Outfielder Drew Stubbs opened last season batting leadoff, and it didn’t work out very well. He struggled the first two months and was moved lower in the order. The Reds won the NL Central despite using several players at the top.

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One of Baker’s main decisions during spring training will be settling on someone to lead off. He has talked to Stubbs about it.

“I was familiar with the spot when I got here,” Stubbs said. “After the first inning, it’s just another spot in the batting order. Your approach doesn’t change too much. I think the key to it, obviously with the better hitters on the team coming up behind you, is to get on base and manufacture a run. Let them drive you in.”

Stubbs told Baker he’s comfortable batting anywhere in the order.

“I told Dusty that whether I’m hitting there or the middle of the order, I’m kind of indifferent to it,” Stubbs said. “Whatever is best suited for the team’s success is where I’ll be comfortable.”

Stubbs batted leadoff in the minors, but clearly wasn’t comfortable at the top of the order when last season started. He was batting only .190 on May 21, with fans clamoring for him to get shipped back to the minors.

Baker moved him lower in the order, and he blossomed. The 26-year-old center fielder batted .269 the rest of the way with 17 homers.

Baker would like to know whether the early struggle was a one-time problem or indicated a pattern.

“I have to find out if he’s a slow starter or not,” Baker said. “The young players don’t have the track record yet. Last year I heard, ’Get him out of here.’ Sometimes, you’ve got to show faith in these guys. The Reds carried David Concepcion his first year. Wasn’t he around .200?”

Concepcion hit .205 in 1971 and .209 in 1972, before developing into a career .267 hitter.

“I think people forget about that,” Baker said.

Baker will use the spring schedule to decide who will lead off. Outfielder Fred Lewis is one option. Second baseman Brandon Phillips batted leadoff last season as well.