Drew a mainstay in leadoff spot
Shortstop's ability to get on base keeps him at the top
PHOENIX -- Stephen Drew may not be the prototypical leadoff hitter, but that's exactly where the shortstop has found himself for the last month in the D-backs lineup.Drew has hit everywhere in the lineup except for cleanup this season, but for the past month he has consistently held down the role of the No. 1 hitter after taking over for Chris Young. Drew had gotten used to being a No. 2 hitter -- a spot where he has batted 37 times this season -- but now has gotten nearly an equal share of at-bats in the No. 1 spot with 36 starts, owning a .271 batting average when leading off the game or an inning. Drew said he never foresaw himself as being a leadoff man in his career, but has made a slight adjustment to his approach at the plate. "More or less I thought I would probably be a No. 2 hitter," Drew said. "Hitting leadoff is basically the same situation -- you're just starting the game off. Other than that, throughout the game, it's over after the first at-bat, but it's fun being up there at the top of the order. It's always a plus. "The only adjustment I would say I had to make is that it's the first at-bat of the game, and you need to see as many pitches and let the guy see you, but that's it. Other than that, the game rolls on." D-backs manger Bob Melvin has used 96 different lineups through the season's first 113 games, but has been happy with putting Drew at the top of the order. "He's given us some stability there. It was a spot that we kind of struggled with for a while," Melvin said. "He's been great in the one spot. It wasn't really a spot that you would envision when Stephen first got here that he would hit, but he's done it based on a need there, and it doesn't seem to bother him." Drew hit leadoff just 24 times in 2007. Young had been the team's primary leadoff man last season, as well as this year's first half, but the center fielder wasn't getting on base enough for Melvin's liking. Drew is enjoying his best season in the big leagues, hitting .278 with 47 extra-base hits, including a career-high 13 homers. "Arguably, you'd want [Drew] in more of an RBI spot at some point in time," Melvin said. "I think you could say that with anybody we use in the leadoff spot, but he's held that spot down very well. Not only has he done a nice job, but he's also knocked runs in when the lineup flips back around. He's gotten on base, done some good things. It's a spot we haven't had to worry about here for a while."
Mike Ritter is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.