PEORIA, Ariz. — Don’t use ink when writing in Austin Jackson atop the Mariners’ lineup card. Not yet, anyway.
Rickie Weeks batted leadoff in Wednesday night’s game against the Chicago Cubs and this time, apparently, it wasn’t because he needed to make an early departure for a dental appointment.
Manager Lloyd McClendon, while saying he’s “just playing with things” also acknowledged, “I like Rickie as a leadoff hitter, too.”
Weeks, 32, is no stranger to the duty.
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He served as the leadoff hitter in 623 of his 1,026 career starts over an 11-year career with Milwaukee prior to signing Feb. 18 with the Mariners as a free agent.
Most notably, he has a .353 on-base percentage in his career as a leadoff hitter, which is slightly better than his overall .347 career mark.
“Over time,” Weeks said, “I had to adapt a little bit because I was always told that when you’re leading off, you’ve got to see pitches and take pitches. But I found I’ve just got to play my game.
“It took me a while to figure that out, to just play the same way.”
Jackson batted second on Wednesday — a move that McClendon made twice earlier this spring when speedy James Jones batted leadoff. At the time, McClendon cited Jackson’s ability to “move the ball around.”
While Weeks lacks Jones’ speed, McClendon still likes Jackson’s potential as a No. 2 hitter behind Weeks and in front of Robinson Cano.
“Austin is a speed guy who hits a lot of triples and doubles,” McClendon said. “They both bring a lot to the table.”
The only other time this spring that Weeks batted leadoff was March 18. He had a dental appointment that day, and McClendon made the move in an effort to give him the best chance for three at-bats before departing.
Not this time.
Even so, the idea of Weeks as a leadoff hitter is merely a consideration at this point; and Jackson figures to remain the leadoff hitter against right-handed pitchers when Dustin Ackley replaces Weeks in left field.
But when the Mariners face a lefty, Weeks appears likely to bat first or second in the lineup.
“Rickie has close to 3,000 at-bats in the leadoff spot,” McClendon said. “I think he has 100 home runs in the leadoff spot. There’s a lot to like about him there.”
Weeks had the most memorable homer of the spring when he cleared the batters' eye at Peoria Stadium in a March 7 game against Arizona.