Owings' bat has Melvin thinking
D-backs manager ponders hitting righty higher in order
TUCSON, Ariz. -- D-backs manager Bob Melvin is known for changing his lineup on an almost daily basis.The reigning National League Manager of the Year used 146 different combinations last year in leading Arizona to a NL-best 90 wins. This year, might things be a little different? "It appears a little more set because of the success we had in the second half, particularly the last few months," Melvin said of his lineup. Melvin, though, studies scouting reports as well as statistics and has never been shy about changing things around to exploit what he thinks could be a matchup advantage. And when you listen to him talk about Chris Snyder or Eric Byrnes, you realize that the lineup is still very much subject to change. And then there's the case of pitcher Micah Owings. One of the things Melvin said he will "tinker" with this spring is where to hit the right-hander on days he pitches. Owings, who hit .333 with four homers and 15 RBIs in 60 at-bats last year, will serve as the team's designated hitter and bat eighth in Sunday's split-squad game against the White Sox at Tucson Electric Park. "It's a good way to get him some at-bats in a game where he's not pitching," Melvin said. "His next start I think I've got him scooted up a little bit as well," Melvin declined to say just how far up in the order he planned to hit Owings, but during the regular season, he doesn't plan on hitting him in the middle of the order and is more likely to hit him higher than ninth when the team is at home rather than on the road. That's because at home he will be on the mound for the top of the first and so if he hits in the bottom of the first it won't alter his pregame routine. If they are on the road and he has to hit in the top of the first it might make him rush his warm-ups a bit or otherwise throw off his routine.
As for Snyder, the catcher went to Melvin after the All-Star break and told him he wanted to hit higher in the order to help up the team. Snyder wound up hitting .292 in the second half. He was in the No. 4 spot in the lineup on Saturday and figures to spend some time in the middle of the order this summer."Snyder's a guy you might see moved around a little bit," Melvin said. "Some of the leadership qualities he's taken have not only been behind the plate and in the clubhouse, but at the plate." Byrnes hit anywhere from one through five in the lineup last year, and while he settled in the No. 3 spot, he might be the rare player that benefits from not having a set spot. "I think Byrnsie does better when you move him around and challenge him from day to day," Melvin said. "He ended up being our No. 3 hitter last year and probably didn't have his best success toward the end of the year. ... I think he's a guy that likes to be challenged. I think sometimes you change the look for him, and it's more kind of a challenge for him, and he responds accordingly."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.