Shin-Soo Choo saw his season turn around when Indians manager Manny Acta put the right fielder in the leadoff spot earlier this year, and now the same approach is being tried with second baseman Jason Kipnis. On Friday against the Tigers, Choo replaced Kipnis in the third hole and Kipnis moved into the leadoff role.
"We're switching things up," Acta said. "First of all, Choo's been swinging the bat good. He's hitting some extra-base hits. Once the lineup is rolling over, obviously, he's hitting behind the bottom of our order, which hasn't been that productive. We need him to hit with a couple of guys on the bases.
"It also takes some pressure off Kipnis a little bit. Maybe he'll get to maybe see some more fastballs, or just change things up for him."
Heading into Friday's game at Comerica Park, Kipnis had not launched a home run in 133 at-bats, dating back to June 17. Over his past 36 games, the second baseman had hit just .233 with no homers and 14 RBIs. His most recent six games included a 2-for-20 (.100) showing at the plate.
Choo went through a similar rough patch to start the season. The right fielder was hitting .209 on May 3, and Acta decided to give him a shot at leading off on May 14. Across 70 games in the lineup's first slot, Choo hit .310 with 11 homers, 25 doubles, 27 RBIs and a .382 on-base percentage.
Choo said hitting leadoff provided two things: more at-bats and more fastballs.
"I had a really good time in the leadoff spot," Choo said. "But lineups really don't matter. When I hit leadoff, the only real difference was a I saw first-pitch fastballs more often. And I got many at-bats. I started feeling more comfortable in the batter's box."