NORTH PORT, Fla. — Joe Girardi thinks so much about his team’s batting order that it even consumes the Phillies manager when he’s trying to sleep.
“That’s what I think about the most when I’m in bed,” Girardi said before Monday night’s game against the Atlanta Braves. “Honestly. I think about lineups.”
But those thoughts became a bit less dreamy last week when Andrew McCutchen was ruled out for opening day. The Phillies have to find a new leadoff hitter. And Girardi is still dreaming up scenarios.
Perhaps it will be Scott Kingery batting first or Roman Quinn hitting leadoff. Maybe even J.T. Realmuto. The Phillies still have a little more than three weeks to determine who is atop the lineup card on March 26. One thing is for sure, it will not be Bryce Harper.
“No, I wouldn’t do that,” Girardi said. “As of right now, I just wouldn’t. I would like for him to hit with somebody on in the first inning.”
The Phillies tried eight hitters in the leadoff spot last season after McCutchen suffered a season-ending knee injury, but none could stick. The two players who started the most games there will not be options on opening day. McCutchen will be on the injured list and Cesar Hernandez now plays for Cleveland. So the Phillies have to do some thinking.
Harper batted leadoff eight times as Gabe Kapler was desperate last summer to spark his slumping lineup. He hit Harper first for four straight games in June and four straight in August. Harper regularly works deep counts as he saw the second-most pitches last season among Phillies batters. But he also led the team in RBIs and his career OPS is 68 points higher when a runner is on base.
He went 8-for-30 in his eight games with three homers and seven walks from the No. 1 spot. The Phillies won just two of those games as the lineup remained stagnant. It was a short-lived experiment and met in the city with ridicule, but Harper’s numbers were not a total failure.
“I think ideally he fits in the two or three spot,” Girardi said. “Two is an option.”
Girardi’s batting order on opening day in Miami will likely be headed by Quinn or Kingery, but he did bat Realmuto first on Sunday afternoon. The construction of Grapefruit League lineups can also be based on other factors, such as wanting Realmuto to get extra at-bats before he’s done catching his four or so innings. But this, Girardi said, is something he’s considering for the regular season. Realmuto batted leadoff 40 times over three seasons in Miami, but Kapler never tried him there last season. Perhaps it is something to dream about.
“He’s done it before and he was comfortable doing it. That’s what I like about it,” Girardi said. “He’s not a guy that’s going to walk a ton, but he hits for a pretty good average. He can hit a home run to lead off a game. I mean, he’s not going to clog the bases, that’s for sure. He can run, which is good because you’ve got some guys that are coming up behind him that are hitting doubles and homers.”