Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella confirmed yesterday that there would be no leadoff platoon this year, and announced that Ryan Theriot would be the leadoff hitter.
Theriot batted .283 in 42 games in the leadoff spot last season when he took over for Alfonso Soriano, who was dropped to sixth. The Cubs, who used six leadoff men last season, began camp wanting to look at both Theriot and Fukudome there.
“I’m just glad he has the confidence in me to stick me up there,” Theriot said after Monday’s 5-2 loss to the Rockies. “I feel comfortable at the top of the order — one, two. One’s good, two’s good. Honestly, just as long as I’m in the lineup. I cannot get [Piniella] to let me hit fourth or fifth. I’m working on that, so we’ll see.” cubs.com.
Even though Kosuke Fukudome hits much better against righties than Theriot, and even though the case for a leadoff platoon has never been stronger, I can’t say I’m terribly angry about this decision. Having Theriot in the one-hole allows him to be the best kind of hitter he can be – i.e., a guy that works counts and tries to get on base. Theriot struggled when Piniella told him to start swinging hard. Presumably, as the permanent lead0ff hitter, Theriot will understand his role.
Further, the only real difference between the number one and number two hitters is a tiny amount of extra at bats over the course of the season. Fukudome’s goal will still generally be to get on base and see pitches.