Cardinals return pitcher to No. 9 spot
Second 'leadoff man' won't always be an option in 2009 season
VIERA, Fla. -- It's well known that nothing in Cardinals camp is accidental, and that includes the lineup. When manager Tony La Russa put pitcher Kyle Lohse in the ninth spot in his batting order on Saturday against Washington, it was a sign of things to come. St. Louis isn't scrapping the practice of hitting the pitcher eighth, but it's not going to be an everyday thing in 2009.
It's not that La Russa has given up on the concept. It's just that in practice, the 2009 St. Louis team often won't have a valid option to occupy the "second leadoff" spot. On those days -- likely to become more frequent when Troy Glaus returns from right shoulder surgery -- the Redbirds will use a conventional lineup with the pitcher batting ninth.
"My official answer," La Russa said, "is that I believe that the pitcher hitting eighth, for all the reasons that we've talked about at length, is a better lineup, because it brings that second leadoff man, which gets Albert [Pujols] in the cleanup spot. But you've got to have somebody who fits there."
The Redbirds did have one man in the lineup on Saturday who has hit ninth this spring: Colby Rasmus. But La Russa wanted Rasmus in the No. 2 spot. So catcher Jason LaRue took the eight hole, and Lohse found himself hitting ninth.
The issue will become more pronounced when Glaus returns. On many days, when the Cardinals' outfield consists of Chris Duncan, Rick Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick, there simply won't be a hitter who fits the second-leadoff profile.
"You can't put Ankiel, Ludwick or Duncan in the nine spot," La Russa said. "You can't put Glaus there. Hopefully, you shouldn't put Khalil [Greene] there. You won't put [Skip] Schumaker there. You won't put Albert there. And you aren't going to put Yadier [Molina] there. So if that's the case, then I probably will hit the pitcher ninth.
"But some days, if there's a true second leadoff playing, or if you're not scoring any runs with the pitcher ninth, then I'll say one of you guys will hit ninth."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.