SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The unconventional may become the conventional for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2016, at least when it comes to where the starting pitcher is slotted in the batting order.
“I’d like to hit all of our pitchers eighth, if we could; if we can show they can handle the bat and do some different things with the bat,” manager Chip Hale said Monday.
Last season, Hale’s first as a big-league manager, the D-backs had their starting pitchers bat eighth 15 times.
The reason mainly, according to Hale, was to “mix it up” when the team was struggling offensively.
Of course there is a strategy to it as well, one D-backs chief baseball officer Tony La Russa employed on a number of occasions during his 16 years of National League managerial experience.
“With A.J. (Pollock) hitting in the one or the two-hole and Goldy (Paul Goldschmidt) in the three-hole, it gives us one more guy,” Hale said on the day position players reported to Salt River Fields.
Pollock finished last season with a career-high 76 RBI, third on the team to only Goldschmidt (110) and outfielder David Peralta (78).
The D-backs may have the ideal starting rotation to pull this off.
For one, Zack Greinke handles the bat very well.
His .224 (15-for-67) batting average ranked third in the National League among pitchers with 40 or more at-bats last season, and only San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner hit more home runs (five) than Greinke’s two.
In 12 seasons, Greinke is a .220 hitter with six home runs and 14 RBI, 10 of which came during his three years with the L.A. Dodgers.
“Greinke really is a quality major league hitter,” Hale said. “He’s as good as most of the pitchers in the league. I’m very comfortable hitting him eighth and I told the other guys, show me that I can do it with you.”
Projected No. 2 starter Shelby Miller doesn’t have the same eye-popping statistics — .113 (18-for-160) with one home run and six RBI in four seasons — but he has been one of the best in the game at moving runners over.
Miller led the league in sacrifice bunts with 13 in 2014 and had the third-most (11) in 2015.
And as far as Patrick Corbin and Rubby De La Rosa, Hale expects those two to improve at the plate as well.
“Ruby’s swing looks good. He’s really, really worked hard on his swing,” Hale said. “You have to execute. In practice it’s beautiful but you got to show us you can execute in the games.”
As for Corbin, Hale said the left-hander is a good athlete who can handle the bat.
“I think a year after missing a year (for Tommy John surgery) he’ll be a lot better,” he said.
Corbin had three hits and three RBI in only 25 at-bats last season, while De La Rosa went 6-for-64 (.094) with two RBI and four sacrifice bunts.
“If we do it, we may do it. We may just go for it and see how it works for while and if not, we’ll go back the other way,” Hale said. “There’s advantages both sides of it. Analytically, there’s some advantages to it, but again, it’s nice to have a guy that can handle the bat there.”