Who's No. 1? Bloomquist will get the first shot

March 30, 2012

"I don't consider myself your prototype track-star, see-a-lot-of-pitches leadoff hitter," Bloomquist said, "but I like hitting leadoff because it gives you the opportunity to set the table for the guys."

Bloomquist has spent time with staff members and consummate leadoff hitters Brett Butler and Eric Young, as well as Gibson, discussing the role in camp.

"I'm still trying to learn what is better for the me and what is better for the team. I've always had the mentality that if he's going to lay a first-pitch fastball in there, don't let him do that. But if it has some late movement and you ground out, what has your team learned? It's a fine line," Bloomquist said.

Bloomquist's game plays into Gibson's wants. Bloomquist hit .270 with a .320 on-base percentage as the leadoff hitter, where he had 19 of his 20 stolen bases while providing the kind of pressure on an opponent that Gibson likes. He also hit .271 in high-leverage situations, the situations in which a game is close.

"He's done good for us," Gibson said. "With our lineup, they (leadoff hitters) come up in some pretty key situations. You look at it, in our league, if the No. 8 guy gets on and you bunt him over now you have a guy who is hitting with runners in scoring position. So obviously that is another factor."

The numbers also suggest that Bloomquist is the most logical option. Young is a career .247 hitter at the top of the order, where he hit .235 last year. Gibson said Young is a candidate to hit there at times this season, although he did most of his damage last year after being moved into the heart of the order. Parra hit .242 in his limited time at leadoff last season, while Roberts hit. 209.

Gibson hopes his leadoff man will get more opportunities to be a run producer this season. The D-backs staff has spent a lot of time with the pitchers this spring working on both bunting and on faking the bunt and hitting away. Ian Kennedy did one of each in his most recent start.

"We have worked a lot on it. We hope we're better than we were last year and we have more runners" moving into scoring position, Gibson said.

"We like to try to keep rolling it over. We don't want to have people be able to pitch to the No. 9 position and kind of get free outs or relieve themselves of any pressure."

Gibson used 118 lineups because of matchups, injuries, etc., last season, including five leadoff hitters, and he does not appear ready to change.

"We're a versatile team, and that's what we want to be," Gibson said.

"We want to be hard to predict. We want guys who can do many things in many situations."

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