Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
When the Los Angeles Dodgers traded for Mookie Betts and David Price, it added a former MVP to the lineup and previous Cy Young Award winner to the starting rotation. Betts also figured to solidify the leadoff spot in the Dodgers lineup.
That was playing out as such during Cactus League play, then again during intrasquad games and exhibitions in Summer Camp. However, it was Max Muncy leading off on Opening Day. Betts hit second that night, then returned to his expected spot in the order on Friday.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts explained the club will likely have Muncy — or another left-handed batter — batting leadoff whenever facing a right-handed pitcher. Betts will be put atop the order when the opponent starts a southpaw.
Last season, Muncy made the bulk of his starts (58) when batting second. “I keep getting asked what I think about it, and I don’t know,” he said after hitting back of Betts and slugging two home runs in the Dodgers’ 9-1 win over the San Francisco Giants.
“I’m just willing to do whatever it takes to help the team win. If they tell me that’s where I need to hit, I’ll do it. All I care about is helping the team win and winning the World Series this year.”
Muncy added he “better get real comfortable” with hitting first or second this season. “For me to have the buy-in from the players, regardless of where they hit, to take their at-bats, it makes it a lot easier on me and more difficult on opposing managers,” Roberts said.
For Muncy, part of the adjustment is in determining how to approach his at-bat when hitting leadoff. “Once you get past the first inning, it’s just another spot in the lineup. With the way our lineup is, guys are always going to be on base, there’s always going to be a chance to drive people in,” he said.
“It’s nothing too different once you get past that first at-bat. I’ve just got to find a way to get comfortable with the first at-bat if that’s what the lineup is going to be. The biggest difference is deciding whether or not you should swing at the first pitch. The first at-bat kind of sets the tone for the whole game.
“You don’t want to make an early out, but at the same time, those early pitches sometimes are really good ones to hit. You kind of have to feel how the game is flowing at that time. I know that’s hard to say when you’re the leadoff batter, but when we’re the home team, you kind of feel how it’s going when the other team bats first.
“It’s just something you’ve got to have a little experience with, and I don’t quite have it. But I’m more than willing to get to that point.”
Dodgers lineup meeting expectations
While plenty of attention has gone to Betts, Muncy and the top of the Dodgers’ order, the entire lineup has been productive through the first two games of the season. L.A. has outscored San Francisco, 17-2, and had 43 baserunners over that stretch.
“Potent, dangerous, explosive, exciting. There’s not really one word you can pick,” Muncy said when asked to describe the lineup. “It’s fun to get out there in real games. We were all extremely excited before the original Spring Training started and then this whole thing and kind of put everything on pause.
‘It’s just nice to get back out there, play real games and see what this lineup can finally do. We’ve got everyone healthy for the most part. It was exciting during Summer Camp, it’s even more exciting now that the real games are going on.”
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