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03/23/10 8:23 PM ET
Hillman plans to tinker with lineup
KC manager trying DeJesus as leadoff, Callaspo third
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Don't fill out the Royals' lineup on your Opening Day scorecard just yet. Manager Trey Hillman is still fiddling with it. Just when you thought that it'd be maybe Scott Podsednik, Alberto Callaspo (or Jason Kendall) and David DeJesus in the 1-2-3 spots ahead of Billy Butler, think again. "I'm going to start tinkering with that a little bit," Hillman said. In coming Cactus League games, he plans to try it this way: DeJesus, Podsednik and Callaspo, in that order, ahead of Butler. "I'm going to look at Dave one and Pod two," Hillman said. "Neither one of those guys care. "I like Callaspo in a position to drive in runs. I don't like waiting until the sixth or the seventh slot to get his bat back up there because of the slug, the on-base percentage, the batting average -- the whole package. So I'm going to look at him [at No.] 3." Last year, Callaspo most often batted fifth, sixth and seventh and had the biggest offensive year of his career. DeJesus has a long history as the Royals' leadoff man, and he's been effective in 607 games in that spot with a .297 average and .367 on-base percentage. "I think Pod is more of a prototypical leadoff guy because of his stolen-base totals," Hillman said. "But you can't argue with what history has told us about what David's numbers are in leadoff and what his numbers aren't in the No. 2 slot, although it's a much smaller sample." Podsednik, in 637 games as leadoff batter, has 237 stolen bases, compared to DeJesus' mere 39 in almost as many games. And Podsednik's No. 2 average/on-base figures are .296/.344 in 78 games, compared to DeJesus' .245/.319 in 88 games.Numbers, numbers. And Hillman believes they can make a difference -- in a player's mind, at least. "I really want to try to stay away from guys getting mental," Hillman said. "Quite frankly, [reporters] write about it, and these guys hear about it." "If these guys hear about it, they're going to get more mental with it. So, honestly, I really don't want to put David in the No. 2 slot. I think he would slot there just fine, but he doesn't have a history there, and he's going to read about it, he's going to hear about, and I don't think that's a good combination." Behind Butler, Hillman sees Rick Ankiel and Jose Guillen in the Nos. 5-6 slots or vice versa. Ankiel is a left-handed batter and Guillen is right-handed, so it could depend on the pitcher. Ankiel has been out since March 12 with a sore right ankle, which he'll continue to test in Minor League games at the complex. If that goes well, he's expected to return to Cactus League play on Saturday against the Oakland A's as the designated hitter. "His first game back with our Major League team in these 'A' games I want it to [be as] DH instead of throwing him right back into the fire in center field," Hillman said. The manager didn't get into the lower-third of the lineup in his musings, but presumably those slots would be filled by Kendall, Yuniesky Betancourt and Chris Getz, in some order. Kendall has often been used in the No. 2 slot this spring. Against the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday, DeJesus wasn't in the lineup, so Getz was in the leadoff spot, but Podsednik, Callaspo, Butler and Guillen were lined up two through five. It worked well with Callaspo, who banged a triple and an RBI single to raise his average to .475, and Guillen, who smacked two doubles and upped his mark to .296.
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And still ahead were 12 games in which Hillman could experiment.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.