SCOTTSDALE — When the Giants posted their first fully healthy lineup of the spring on Friday afternoon, pitcher Matt Cain was batting eighth and Angel Pagan was ninth.
A sign of things to come?
“I dunno,” manager Bruce Bochy said, flashing a mischievous smile. “You know, I’m going to take a look at it. As you can tell, we have our guys out there today. I’m going to try some different lineups from this point on. I’ll take a look at this one.”
Bochy has rarely hit his pitcher eighth — Madison Bumgarner was the only one to do it last year, and only once — and he said it’s “fair to say” it’s an idea he didn’t always agree with in the past. Other teams have tried the strategy, most notably Joe Maddon’s Cubs, and Bochy said it’s intriguing with the mix of players he has now. This isn’t about Bumgarner’s ability at the plate, although that helps. Bochy said the addition of Span makes this possible. He views Pagan — or Gregor Blanco if he’s in left — as a second leadoff man out of the No. 9 spot.
“One reason you do it is to keep (those guys) in the role they’re used to,” Bochy said. “Here’s another leadoff hitter. That’s where I’ve said it makes sense, if you have two speed guys.”
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With Span now hitting leadoff, Pagan might have been moved to the eight-spot in front of the pitcher. Bochy thinks that makes it hard for a guy to take advantage of his speed. Pagan has never started a game hitting ninth, and Blanco said he’s never hit behind the pitcher. He doesn’t think it’ll be a problem.
“I think it’s going to be really interesting,” Blanco said. “We haven’t done it, but it’s going to be good for us. Whatever decision (Bochy) makes, we’re always going to back him up.”
The rest of Friday’s lineup was interesting in other ways, as same-side hitters were stacked up. In order, Bochy went: Span, Joe Panik, Matt Duffy, Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, Cain and Pagan. That’s two lefties, three righties, two lefties, a righty, and a switch-hitter.
In the past Bochy might have broken things up a bit more, but this group is more versatile. Crawford has at times hit much better against left-handers than right-handers; Belt crushed lefties in the second half last season; Duffy actually fared much better against right-handers as a rookie; Panik, hitting behind the left-handed Span, doesn’t have varied splits.
“That makes it easier to stack them,” Bochy said. “But again, I’ll look at the pitcher we’re facing.”
Bochy wouldn’t reveal much about the other lineups he’s considering, but now that the position players are all relatively healthy, he’ll get a chance to experiment. All he has confirmed is that Span is his leadoff hitter and Posey — obviously — will always bat third or fourth.
There are other permutations the Giants could use. They’ve talked of swapping Duffy and Panik depending on the pitcher. Pence and Pagan have been mentioned as potential No. 2 hitters. Belt could slide in between Posey and Pence. Crawford could move up in the lineup.
“It’s kind of a fun thing,” Bochy said. “You think about it all the time, and we discuss it in the staff room. This is one (tonight) that I’ve been waiting to look at.”