GLENDALE, Ariz. — As manager Rick Renteria kicks around lineup possibilities, he will take into account players’ comfort levels in particular spots.
For example, some like to leadoff, others don’t.
Switch-hitter Yoan Moncada, whose on-base, speed and power ability profile him for anywhere in the top four, prefers batting second. He’s not a big fan of leading off, where he had 449 plate appearances in 2018 and 41 in 2019. While Renteria doesn’t have an obvious solution in the leadoff spot, he’s probably leaning toward someone other than Moncada.
“I’m dealing with a human being and I do take into account where guys feel comfortable,” Renteria said Friday. “If you’re trying to change spots in the lineup where they can bat, you’ve got to do it subtlety and you’ve got to make sure you’re having conversations with the guy and that ultimately the player has to feel good about where they’re at. But yeah, do I take it into account? Absolutely.”
Moncada batted .315/.367/.548 with 25 homers, 79 RBI and 10 stolen bases in an All-Star caliber season in 2019. In the nine games in the leadoff spot, he batted .250/.268/.375. In the 68 games he batted second, Moncada batted .344/.401/.604.
While offering to bat anywhere “to help the team,” Moncada made his preference clear.
“I would like to hit in the second spot of the lineup,” he said through translator Billy Russo. “That’s where I feel more comfortable.’’
On paper, Moncada might be the Sox’ best leadoff option, and he used his selective batting eye to take a lot of pitches “because that’s the role of the leadoff hitter,” he said. He also excelled last season when he was more aggressive.
Moncada said he wants to steal more bases this season, that his legs are stronger after doing more flexibility work to avoid being sidelined by hamstring injuries.
“I feel much better than the last couple of years right now,” he said.
“Hopefully I’m going to be able to play 162-plus games this year.”
Gonzalez playing catch, ‘feeling good’
Left-hander Gio Gonzalez, signed to a one-year, $5 million contract in the offseason, has not been available to media since spring training opened Wednesday, when general manager Rick Hahn announced the 34-year-old has “minor startup soreness” that surfaced three weeks ago during his throwing program.
“He played catch today again,” Renteria said. “So he’s feeling good.”
Hahn said he anticipates Gonzalez, Yasmani Grandal (mild calf strain) and right-hander Lucas Giolito (chest muscle strain) to all be ready by Opening Day.
It being a shoulder, Gonzalez’ issue seems more worrisome than the others but it’s the middle of February.
“We’re in no hurry at this point, you know?” Renteria said. “So we’ll take our time.”
Tim’s boots weren’t made for walking
Shortstop Tim Anderson led the majors in batting average (.335) while walking only 15 times. Simply put, Anderson is an aggressive hitter and probably won’t or shouldn’t try to change his style.
“I’m not looking for him to change,” Renteria said. “If he starts laying off of particular pitches, if it leads to another walk … sure, we welcome it. But I’m not going to try to just overhaul him after doing what he did.”