JUPITER, Fla. (AP) -Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said Tuesday his pitchers would bat eighth in spring training games in which the designated hitter is not used.
La Russa then plans to continue the practice once the regular season starts.
``We'll hit the pitcher eighth,'' he said. ``We're going to have a second leadoff as the ninth-place hitter.''
La Russa inserted a position player in the ninth spot behind the pitcher for the final 56 games last season. The Cardinals were 28-28 in those games after starting the season 50-56.
The move may have sparked the offense, which boosted its production from 4.3 runs per game to 4.6.
The Cardinals jumped back into the NL Central race after the move, going from seven games behind to one game out. A late season collapse dropped the Cardinals out of the race.
``Tony's not going to make a decision that's not proven to work,'' pitcher Adam Wainwright said. ``Whether people are doing it or not I don't think he really cares. It's just the numbers that he's concerned with. If the numbers say it works then he's going to do it.''
La Russa believes the move gives the Cardinals more opportunities to score runs. Having a position hitter in the nine hole makes No. 3 hitter Albert Pujols more like a cleanup hitter without dropping him in the lineup, which could possibly sacrifice an at-bat.
``When we got hot, a lot of it was our ninth-place hitter setting the table,'' La Russa said about last season.
The move also seemed to help the pitchers, who hit .210 with a .248 on-base percentage batting eighth opposed to a .191 average and .217 on-base percentage batting ninth. The position players who were dropped to the bottom of the lineup enjoyed having the leadoff hitter behind them as opposed to the pitcher.
``When you bat ninth and the pitcher is eighth and you lead off the inning or you get up with one out you have that feeling we can get a rally going,'' said infielder Aaron Miles, who batted ninth in 20 games.
Infielder Brendan Ryan was ninth in the order a team-high 28 times. He was the leadoff hitter for Triple-A Memphis before being called up.
``I actually liked it,'' Ryan said. ``The thing was, as soon as he started doing it we started winning games and I'm scoring all these runs in front of these guys who are knocking me in.''
The lone downside: The ridicule the players take for hitting behind the pitcher.
But it's all in fun.
``Some of the (Braves) got on me, (Brian) McCann and some of the other guys,'' Ryan said. ``You're going to hear that. Hitting after the pitcher you know it comes with the territory. I didn't really care.''

Recent MLB Discussions

Top MLB Public Bets

#1 971 Seattle Mariners  98%
#2 957 Cincinnati Reds  98%
#3 956 New York Mets  96%
#6 968 Baltimore Orioles  87%
#7 965 Houston Astros  86%
#8 953 Chicago Cubs  83%
#10 970 Boston Red Sox  57%

MLB Top Stories

Thumbnail Dodgers vs. Giants Prediction Will tonight's Dodgers and Giants game be low-scoring for bettors when the NL West rivals clash at 10:15PM ET?
Thumbnail Blue Jays vs. Angels Prediction Can the Blue Jays take the series against the Angels with a win tonight at 10:07PM ET?
Thumbnail Padres vs. Diamondbacks Prediction Will the Diamondbacks beat the Padres behind Zack Greinke tonight when the NL West rivals clash at 9:40PM ET?
Thumbnail Nationals vs. Rockies Prediction Will the Rockies upset the red-hot, but travel-weary Nationals tonight at 8:40PM ET in Denver?
Thumbnail Twins vs. Rangers Prediction Is the over/under total set too high in tonight's Twins and Rangers game at 8:05PM ET?

MLB Team Pages