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Posted at 9:41 AM ET, 03/ 1/2011

Jim Riggleman 'leaning' toward hitting Jayson Werth third, Ryan Zimmerman fourth

By Adam Kilgore

zim swing.jpg

Today's lineup, the first this spring in which Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth appear, offers some insight into how Jim Riggleman will set his regular-season lineup. Werth will bat third today and Zimmerman will hit cleanup, which is how Riggleman is "leaning" to align his two best hitters once the season starts, he said.

Last year, when Zimmerman batted third behind leadoff man Nyjer Morgan and the second hitter du jour, Riggleman felt Zimmerman's lack of opportunities with men on base deflated the team. Werth last season punched up a .388 on-base percentage, which would have put him one point below Josh Willingham for the team lead.

"It allows to put a high on-base percentage guy in front of Zim," Riggleman said. "I'd like to have some men on base when Zim comes up."

In his career, Zimmerman has started 579 games batting third and 148 anywhere else in the lineup, including 60 games at cleanup. Riggleman spoke to Zimmerman about the switch and insisted Zimmerman did not care. Last year, when Riggleman batted Zimmerman fourth and Adam Dunn third against certain pitchers, Zimmerman showed indifference.

"I couldn't get the words out my mouth," Riggleman said. "People make a lot out of it, but [Zimmerman and Dunn] both were successful hitting third or fourth."

"I don't really care where I hit," Zimmerman said. "I would be the same hitter if I was hitting third, fourth, seventh."

Today, LaRoche is batting sixth with Mets left-hander Jonathan Niese starting. Riggleman said LaRoche would typically bat sixth against left-handed pitchers so Zimmerman can hit with Michael Morse, and not a lefty, behind him so pitchers and less enticed to pitch around Zimmerman. Against right-handed starters, LaRoche would likely bat fifth, Riggleman said.

By Adam Kilgore  | March 1, 2011; 9:41 AM ET
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Of course this wouldn't be necessary if Nyjer Morgan could get on base more often.

Posted by: trezmartin | March 1, 2011 9:50 AM | Report abuse

I think the more interesting part of the lineup is batting Morse fifth. In part that may say that the Nats don't have a legitmate 5 hitter. But it also seems strange for a player who bats 5th against lefties to sit on the bench against righties. I say that Morse is this close to earning a full time starting job.

Posted by: jcj5y | March 1, 2011 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Under no circumstances should Nyjer ever, ever, EVER bat against a LHP!

I'm all for giving Nyjer a shot as leadoff and at CF, but he absolutely stinks against lefties and should not be allowed anywhere near the plate if a lefty is on the mound.

Posted by: erocks33 | March 1, 2011 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Hitting Zimmerman third or fourth makes no difference, because he hits equally well out of both slots. However, Werth has historically not hit well anyplace but in the number five spot. Batting him third could cause his batting average to drop significantly.

Any decision as to who bats where in the lineup made this early in spring training would be a very foolish act, because it could very easily, and more likely backfire.

What does Riggleman do if spring training shows that Michael Morse truly is Jason Werth 2.0, but with more power, bat him 6th or 7th? The potential headache of having a Zimmerman, Werth, Morse and LaRoche in the middle of the lineup is one any manager would love to have. Well, maybe any except Riggleman, because he's a leaner and always leans towards his veterans.

If it were me and if Morse to prove he's the real deal, then I wouldn't be at all afraid to create a lineup of, Morgan, Desmond, Zimmerman, Morse, Werth, LaRoche, Espinosa, Rodriguez/Ramos. I also wouldn't be afraid to switch Morse and Zimmerman in the batting order.

They say, if you're a good hitter, you can hit anywhere in the lineup, but the Nats have a bunch of situational hitters and where they hit could be crucial to how well they do.

Posted by: KenzAFan | March 1, 2011 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Think outside the box. Let Werth lead off.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | March 1, 2011 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Werth is now going to see first hand what it is like to lose every other game. Doesn't matter where you put him in the order. Totally overrated at best.

Posted by: jheidel | March 1, 2011 1:18 PM | Report abuse

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