Will Rizzo see time in Interleague?
While we usually examine recent trends, I will get a bit more proactive in Week 10.
Interleague play is set to resume later this week, and the leagues will continuously intermix over the next few weeks. Unlike May's tease, AL teams could be sans-DH for several games in a row, and many NL clubs will be able to utilize the designated hitter privilege for the first time. This will be the last season in which the interleague schedule is so cut-and-dry, as next year's scheduling will be much messier.
Without further ado, here are 10 Designated Hitter-related observations, in no particular order. (Injuries and roster moves could diminish some of my prognosticative power)
CHI-A: Adam Dunn
The White Sox lost DH privileges when they played in Wrigley in May, but they avoided a conunDunn (like conundrum) after Paul Konerko was knocked out by a pitch to the face. The lineup may not be as simple to figure out this time around, as the White Sox's pitchers must bat for consecutive series against the Cardinals and Dodgers. Dunn could play first or left, but Konerko and Dayan Viciedo have also been key pieces of the lineup. It is likely the White Sox employ some sort of position rotation here (perhaps Viciedo slides over to right for a game or two) so as to minimize Dunn's absences.
KC: Billy Butler
The only defensive slot Butler could possibly play at would be first base, and the Royals have tossed out the idea of shifting Eric Hosmer to the outfield to allow him to play there. Of course, Hosmer could also just fall out of the lineup, given his season-long struggles. However, Hosmer has OPS'd .994 over the last two weeks, so the Royals may be unwilling to pull his bat from the lineup when they go back-to-back in St. Louis and Houston. Moving Hosmer to the outfield would jeopardize Jarrod Dyson's and/or Jeff Francouer's playing time. At the very least, Butler's bat should be in the starting lineup for two-thirds of the Royals' NL games.
BOS: David Ortiz
Like Butler, the Papi's only possible defensive home in a DH-free park is first base. He manned that slot twice earlier this season when the Red Sox played in Philly. In that instance, Adrian Gonzalez shifted to right with Ryan Sweeney falling from the lineup. It's easy to envision a similar deployment in Miami and Chicago, but Kevin Youkilis could complicate things. He was on the disabled list the last time the Red Sox had to fill a lineup with eight batters, and he has started at first base frequently since returning. He would be forced to man third (forcing Will Middlebrooks to the outfield or bench) or serve as a pinch-hitter when Ortiz plays first.
LAA: Kendrys Morales
Morales has yet wear a fielder's glove in 2012. He did not start a single game of the Angels' May series in San Diego, logging one pinch-hit at-bat in each contest. This should change when the Dodgers play sets in Denver and in the city of Los Angeles, as manager Mike Scioscia has already announced plans to free up first for Morales by moving Albert Pujols to third base. I would not expect Morales to play first for all six games, as the Angels still have some questions about the durability of his repaired ankl.e The ploy might weaken the Angels defensively, but Alberto Callaspo isn't exactly a Gold Glover at the hot corner anyway.
BAL: Chris Davis
It looks like Davis has taken over the DH reins from Nick Johnson since Mark Reynolds returned from the disabled list, and they will need to re-adjust again next week when they visit the Braves and Mets in back-to-back series. Davis could return to first for a few games in those series if Reynolds can swing across the infield to cover third base (oblique permitting). Wilson Betemit should not be much of a barrier. Cool fact: Davis has more home runs on the season (nine) than walks (eight).
PHI: Jim Thome
The Phillies signed Thome just for these upcoming series in AL parks, right? The Phillies have to play consecutive series in Baltimore, Minnesota and Toronto, and it would be a shame if Thome is not in the DH slot for at least 10 of the 12 AL games. It is worth noting Thome owns a career .571 slugging percentage to go with 22 home runs at hitter-unfriendly Target Field. The Phillies could also use the DH opportunity to give Placido Polanco a day or two off from the field.
CHI-N: Anthony Rizzo?
The Cubs only have two series on tap in AL parks, and the DH-friendly contests will be separated by a six-game home stand, but they may utilize the extra lineup spot to recall Rizzo. It is a scenario the club has "discussed," but there has been no public indication one way or the other. He now has 188 at-bats worth of a 1.128 OPS at Triple-A Iowa, and his 17 home runs nearly matches the combined output of Bryan LaHair (10) and Alfonso Soriano (eight). The only concern that might have the Cubs re-consider this alignment would be what happens once regular NL play resumes, as there remains no everyday vacancy for his bat. If they do not recall Rizzo, then look for the Cubs to utilize a rotation of sorts (Soriano, LaHair, Jeff Baker, Ian Stewart, Joe Mather) in the DH slot.
SF: Brett Pill/Brandon Belt/Aubrey Huff
Since Aubrey Huff returned from the disabled list May 22, each of these three men have made at least three starts at first base, and Belt is the only one to log starts in consecutive games. The Giants will play nine straight in AL parks, which means there will be two lineup spots for these three men instead of two. Pill is a lock against left-handed starters, and Belt has the edge over Huff for the other spot. It is worth noting six of the DH-allowed contests will be in either Seattle or Oakland, which does not bode well for power-related outcomes.
COL: Jason Giambi
It is almost time to dust off Giambi with games on tap in Detroit and Texas. The 41-year-old has only logged 36 at-bats in 26 games this season, and he has more walks (12) than any other counting statistic. That being said, the swing through AL ballparks could afford Giambi his greatest helping of playing time this season, and he and Todd Helton should share first base/DH duties. Troy Tulowitzki (groin) could be eligible to come off the DL while the DH rule is in effect, so he could conceivably see some action there if he is not completely capable of playing the field.
LAD: Juan Rivera/Bobby Abreu/Alex Castellanos
The Dodgers are set to play in three DH-friendly ballparks during interleague play, and they could use the opportunity to put Abreu at the slot he manned for the Angels the past few seasons. Such a move would allow Rivera or Castellanos to play left. Rivera, who recently returned from a four-week stay on the disabled list, could benefit from a game or two at DH in this weekend's series in Seattle. Matt Kemp could return from DL during the Dodgers' AL spell, and they could utilize the DH slot to avoid further aggravation to his hamstring.
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