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February 23, 2009 at 9:39 AM

Betancourt to hit second?

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Don’t forget the Geoff Baker Live! show, starting at 10 a.m.
This comes up every spring training that I can remember, so let’s all try to stay calm as we walk through it. In today’s manager session, Don Wakamatsu raised the specter of Yuniesky Betancourt possibly hitting second in the batting order. Of course, it hinges on a whole bunch of factors, as it does every year around this time.
Namely, he can’t swing at pitches over his head or a foot off the plate.
Betancourt is the type of guy you would theoretically look at for the No. 2 spot. He’s aggressive and knows how to make contact. You want a pure, line-drive type of hitter in the second spot. So, check on that.
In 98 at-bats at the No. 2 position last year, he posted an impressive .848 OPS, with a .358 OBP and a .327 average. Betancourt wasn’t even above .300 in OBP batting at any other spot in the order. Small sample size, yes, but check on that as well.
But you also want a guy who knows how to get on base. A guy who isn’t going to hit a double-play ball directly at the properly-positioned infielders. Uh, whoops. That’s not going to work, At least, not the 2008 version of Betancourt.
The last thing you need is for Ichiro to get on base and the No. 2 guy to hit a hard ground ball right at the shortstop. We saw this all of last year. The book is out on Betancourt from a pitching standpoint. Throw him a pitch in a certain location and he’ll chase. Position the infielders adequately and they’ll barely have to breathe in getting to his eventual grounder.
Wakamatsu plans lots of work with Betancourt this spring. John McLaren said much the same thing a year ago, but it didn’t work out all that well. So, I’d file this under “early spring wishes” for now and get back to it later on if Betancourt shows signs of having changed.
We’ve mentioned Franklin Gutierrez as a possible No. 2 hitter, but I’m sure the team would like to take some of the pressure off him by dropping him down to the No. 8 spot in the order. Gutierrez struggled in his first full major league season with the Indians in 2008 and easing him in there to start 2009 might not be the worst idea.
Jose Lopez can also hit second, though the team would probably like to see his power used a little further back.
Adrian Beltre would be the perfect No. 2 hitter for this team. Possibly, with Ken Griffey Jr. “protecting” him at No. 3. But that would depend on a clean-up guy being around to carry the load. The only other bat with the raw power needed for that spot is Russell Branyan but he’s too much of a wild-card at this stage of spring training.
Yes, Junior is wearing No. 24 today.
So, looking at Betancourt for No. 2 isn’t totally nuts. He does have the speed, after all.
These are just some of the lineup questions the team is now working through.



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