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07/09/08 8:45 PM ET
Offense cleaning up with Vlad at fourth
Halos' runs up as lineup shift renews slugger's monster form
By Shawn Shroyer / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- The third spot in the batting order is typically reserved for the best bat in the lineup -- the player with the most potent blend of power and average. So, it may come as a surprise to some that for six of the last seven games manager Mike Scioscia has moved eight-time All-Star Vladimir Guerrero from the third spot in the order to the cleanup spot. In Guerrero's place, Scioscia has been rotating diminutive infielders Maicer Izturis and Erick Aybar. Scioscia's thinking behind the switch, with the assumption that Izturis and Aybar would get on base, was that Guerrero, whose RBI numbers have been down from recent years, would benefit from more opportunities to hit with runners on base. "It started out as a short-term move," Scioscia said. "That's not to say it's not a long-term solution. They've been able to work the count and allow the guys in our lineup to do what they're capable of." One thing Guerrero is capable of is driving in more runs than he has this season. Coming into Wednesday, with five games left before the All-Star break, he has 49 RBIs. Since 2004, only once has he had fewer than 60 RBIs before the break. "I'm not going to say it's our preference to get him in the three-spot," Scioscia said of Guerrero. "We just projected it out of Spring Training that way, but we've had to move away from that and right now we've got more of a little ball look out at the top, and it's working." Izturis and Aybar have shown flashes of providing Scioscia the production he was hoping for, with hits in three straight games from July 1-4 and a two-hit game by Izturis on Monday. However, the two are a combined 5-for-24 with zero walks and four strikeouts. Nevertheless, Izturis was hitting third in the order for Wednesday's game and Guerrero fourth. Then again, maybe the third spot in the order is simply cursed. In Guerrero's last game batting third, he went 0-for-5 with a strikeout. "A lot of things haven't jelled the way they should," Scioscia said. "Some guys have been struggling with some things in the batters box. I don't think we have to be so extreme, but on a given night, we just need to score enough runs to win." Whether it's the move down a spot in the order, Guerrero has looked better as of late. Despite Izturis and Aybar's .208 joint average when batting third, Guerrero has been cleaning up from the cleanup spot. Guerrero has batted fourth all six games in which either Izturis or Aybar batted third, and has gone 10-for-25 with two home runs and six RBIs in those games. The Angels offense has followed suit, averaging six runs a game with the new arrangement. If the success continues, it may become permanent. "If Vlad's getting good opportunities in the four-hole, then there may not be a reason to move him," Scioscia said. "He may not have to move the rest of the season. The issue isn't getting him in the three-spot. The issue is giving him opportunities, setting the table for him."
Shawn Shroyer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.