MESA, Ariz. — Though the A’s batting order is changing daily during the early exhibitions, one constant is emerging.
Matt Joyce seems to be manager Bob Melvin’s early choice as a No. 3 hitter when he’s in the lineup. And Melvin’s comments Saturday morning suggested that it could be a regular-season staple as well.
“He’s a professional hitter,” Melvin said. “We tend to move the lineup around from time to time, so I’m getting him acclimated in different spots. We had trouble with on-base (percentage) last year, and his on-base against righties is very good. When he’s in there, he’ll probably be somewhere toward the top based on the fact that we need some guys to get on base a little bit earlier in the lineup.”
The left-handed hitting Joyce is slated to platoon in right field, with Mark Canha a candidate to share the position with him.
Oakland’s team OBP of .304 last season was worst in the American League and the lowest by an A’s team since 1979. Obviously, that played a big role in the A’s also bringing up the rear in runs scored in the AL. Joyce, signed to a two-year*** deal in the offseason, sports an impressive .341 career OBP, and that figure shot up to .403 with Pittsburgh last season, though he accumulated just 231 at-bats in a part-time role.
Joyce has started four Cactus League games so far, hitting third in three of them and second once. He’s 4-for-8 with two home runs and has drawn two walks.
Expect the batting order as a whole to continue showing lots of different looks in exhibitions because the A’s regulars still aren’t playing on a daily basis.
Matt Chapman originally was in Saturday’s lineup at third base, but he stubbed his toe on a chair and cracked a toenail, so Melvin held him out as a precaution and Renato Nunez draws the start at third against the Cleveland Indians.
Outfielder Jake Smolinski, who has yet to play because of a sore right shoulder, is scheduled to make his exhibition debut at designated hitter Sunday against Seattle. He still isn’t throwing yet and said he wasn’t sure when he would do so.
Melvin said he still thinks Smolinski can get enough playing time to make a run at a 25-man roster spot.
Chris Bassitt and Felix Doubront, both on the comeback trail from Tommy John surgery, continue to throw off the mound, though neither has thrown breaking balls yet.