Monday, June 29, 2009

Pedroia back in No. 2 spot

Dustin Pedroia didn't have to worry about getting on base in his first at-bat on Monday. J.D. Drew was on third base following a leadoff triple, and it seemed as easy as anything for Pedroia to go after a fastball down and in and rip it through the box for an RBI single.

See the ball. Hit the ball. Nothing to it.

For Pedroia, though, there was plenty to it. He'd hit .328 in 48 games as the No. 2 hitter behind Jacoby Ellsbury -- but when Red Sox manager Terry Francona shuffled the lineup and installed Pedroia as his leadoff hitter, the second baseman hit .214 of his next 24 games.

It's easy to make too much of a shift in the lineup. Pedroia's slump has coincided with the recent struggles of Jason Bay and Kevin Youkilis, and they haven't moved out of the No. 3 and No. 4 spots since Memorial Day.

But there is something to be said for the mentality of table-setting, Francona said before Monday's game, and for putting too much pressure on yourself to be that spark at the top of the lineup.

"He sees himself hitting first, and he wants so bad to do the right thing that he was getting himself in a hole in the count," Francona said. "He wasn't complaining. He was like, 'I'm fine.' ... It's not the biggest deal who hits first and second. But Pedey's trying too hard to do the right thing, and we just want him to be himself."

One question that naturally arises, of course: If you're going to put Pedroia back in the No. 2 spot in the lineup, why not put Ellsbury back at the top? The speedy center fielder was dropped in the lineup because his .335 on-base percentage wasn't cutting it -- and he's got a .379 on-base percentage since the move was made.

The answer: In that same time span, Drew has an OBP of .411.

"J.D. is a guy that's been getting on base more than driving in runs," Francona said. "To have him in a position where he's driving in runs, it just doesn't make sense to me."

And that's why it made sense to make the move -- even though the Red Sox are 18-7 in the month of June.

"That was the other thing Pedey said: He goes, 'We're winning,'" Francona said. "I said to him, 'Why didn't you tell me if it's bothering you?' He goes, '(Gosh golly gee whiz), we're winning.' That's Pedey. That's why we love him. He cares more about winning than himself."

No comments: