Manager Jim Riggleman made a change at the top of the Nationals lineup today, moving Jayson Werth down one place and out of the leadoff spot after 10 games. Roger Bernadina will hit first today against Mariners right-hander Michael Pineda.
Werth will continue batting second against right-handed starters, “unless I get a feeling Roger is really going to turn it up” against lefties, Riggleman said. While Werth will likely return to batting first against left-handed starters, Riggleman feels as though the Nationals’ best lineup includes Werth hitting second, especially with Ryan Zimmerman back in the lineup hitting third.
“I always feel that that one and two spot are somewhat interchangeable,” Riggleman said. “Against a right-handed pitcher – against any pitcher, really – I feel like Jayson’s biggest impact for our ball club is where we started our during spring training, hitting second.”
Today, pitcher Jason Marquis will bat eighth, continuing the strategy Riggleman has used since he moved Werth to leadoff. The Nationals will play their next six games in American League parks, which makes the question of where the pitcher will hit irrelevant. Once the Nationals return to intraleague play, Riggleman may nor may not continue batting the starting pitcher eighth – “I’m not sure,” he said.
In 39 at-bats, Werth hit .179/.289/.333 as the Nationals’ leadoff hitter. The switch back to Bernadina speaks to the Nationals’ season-long quest to find a leadoff hitter. Overall, Nationals leadoff hitters are batting .205/.270/.308 this season. As the first hitter of the game, their struggles are even more stark – they’re 13 for 72 with two walks, which works out to a .181/.203/.236 slash line.
“It’s a little bit of an area where we’re still searching,” Riggleman said.