According to the lineup sent out this morning by the Oakland A's on Twitter, shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima is slated to bat second today against the Seattle Mariners for the second day in a row. The A's have had Nakajima bat in several spots in the lineup this spring. A's manager Bob Melvin, though, said after Thursday's game that he likes what he has seen from Nakajima so far batting in the No. 2 spot.
"I do," Melvin said. "Liked what I saw today, yeah."
Nakajima singled twice in three at-bats Thursday, with both hits going to the opposite field. The shortstop later said that on the first single, which came with leadoff man Coco Crisp on first base, he was trying to move Crisp over and so aiming for the right side. The second hit came on an outside breaking ball that Nakajima waited on and flipped into right field.
"I think that's kind of his game," Melvin said. "Certainly this spring he's been waiting and seeing pitches. .... Whether the ball's in, middle or away he can hit the ball to right field. And in the two-spot, when you have that hole open (between the first and second basemen), you're going to have some hits if you can hit it over there."
Nakajima said he rarely batted second while playing in Japan and typically hit third. He had four seasons in which he hit at least 20 home runs and four with at least 90 RBIs. But he also consistently hit for a high average -- .302 career, including .297 or better in each of the last seven seasons -- and stole 18 or more bases four times.
Melvin said Nakajima, who stole second in the first inning Thursday for his second steal of the spring, is a "sneaky runner. ... He doesn't look like he's a burner, but he gets good jumps and looks like he gets to top speed very quickly."
In the past week Nakajima has also hit fifth (March 5 in a split squad game against the Royals) and seventh (March 3 against the Rockies). Asked Thursday where he'd prefer to hit, he said, "positioning in the batting order is not the most important thing." He was also asked if he'd rather score a run (bat second being the likely implication) or drive one in (hit lower), but didn't reveal much with that answer either.
"Both," he said through an interpreter. "I get the RBI and then I score the run. That is the best scenario."
-- Matt Kawahara