(Mystery solved: The lineup is posted, and Justin Smoak is hitting third. Here are the details.)
We’ll find out soon enough how Eric Wedge is going to reconfigure the Mariners’ lineup in the absence of Milton Bradley, who batted third in 27 of their 35 games. Adam Kennedy got six starts in the No. 3 hole, and Ryan Langerhans (also sent packing yesterday) had the other two.
But we might as well have a couple hours of speculation. After all, that’s what blogs are for. Dave Cameron gives his revamped lineup thoughts here.
Kennedy doesn’t seem like a strong candidate to fill that spot any more. After a hot start, he’s slowed down at the plate (.260/.295/.397), and Jack Wilson is getting the bulk of the starts at second base again.
The fact of the matter is, the Mariners didn’t have an ideal No. 3 hitter going into spring training, or coming out of spring training, and they still don’t. But someone has to hit there.
I’d eliminate the following regulars from consideration: Jack Wilson, Chone Figgins, Michael Saunders, Brendan Ryan, and Mike Wilson/Carlos Peguero. The first four are obvious, and I don’t think Wedge would want to give the youngsters (if you still count 27-year-old Mike Wilson as a youngster) the pressure of the three hole.
That leaves four candidates:
1) Ichiro. This has been a talking point almost from the instant Ichiro arrived in Seattle, but as I wrote in this post in February, don’t hold your breath.
2) Jack Cust. Cust is starting to heat up. He has a six-game hit streak, during which he is 6-for-18 with three doubles. He strikes out a lot, as we know, but he’s also got a good eye, and he can rake when he gets hot.
3) Justin Smoak. Smoak is obviously a candidate to move to cleanup, as well, but I’d kind of like to see him in the three hole, leaving Cust and/or Olivo at four and five. The No. 3 hitter is traditionally your best hitter, and if Ichiro stays at leadoff, that’s Smoak.
4) Miguel Olivo. He’s a stretch at cleanup. With a .212 average, .246 on-base and .288 slugging, he’s a Gumby-like stretch at No. 3.
What do you think?