Jeff Baker has the names of his platoon partners over the years etched in memory.
The first was Mike Fontenot in 2009 with the Cubs.
“Then it became Blake DeWitt in a platoon at second base.”
“Then I switched over to Bryan LaHair.”
“Then I switched over to [Kusuke] Fukudome.”
“Last year in Texas I platooned with Mitch Moreland at first base and David Murphy in left.”
And this year? Who will it be this year for the Marlins’ versatile newcomer?
Even though first baseman Garrett Jones would appear to be the perfect platoon match for Baker on paper — with Jones in against right-handers and Baker taking on lefties — the Marlins are avoiding the word “platoon” like the plague.
Manager Mike Redmond on Baker’s role: “Right now, we’re going to get him at-bats at a lot of different positions. He’ll get in at first. He’ll get in at third. He’ll get in at second. He gives us a weapon off the bench. I don’t know where he’s going to get the majority of at-bats.”
President of baseball operations Michael Hill: “We signed him because he gives us coverage at any number of positions on the field.”
Yes, but what about a platoon with Jones?
“That’s not our intent as we start the season,” Hill said. “[Jones] was signed to be our everyday first baseman. But that’s what the season’s for, to let it play out.”
If Jones and Baker play to their usual numbers, it probably won’t be long before they’re sharing duty in a platoon arrangement.
Jones is a career .193 hitter against left-handers. Baker has a .298 average against lefties.
Jones has a career OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) of .578 against left-handers. Baker checks in at .875.
And, yet, despite the obvious differences, the Marlins say Jones will be their everyday first baseman — at least initially.
The uncertainty of not knowing what position he will play or where he will hit in the order on any given day, at least on those days his name shows up on the lineup card, doesn’t bother Baker. He’s used to it as a so-called “super-utility” player.
“I'm kind of ready for everything,” he said.
And that would include platooning. For whatever reason, the word itself is one that causes most players to cringe.
“I’m not a fan of it either,” Baker said. “People think of platoon as a negative word. You come up in the game and you play against righties and lefties. It doesn’t matter. You want to play against both.
“But I think of it as a chance to have two players that can do something very well, and you’re trying to maximize the potential and output from one position.”
The Oakland Athletics have been very successful using a platoon system.
“Oakland is a prime example of how you can platoon and make it work,” Baker said. “They do a very good job out there.”
Baker doesn’t care how he’s used, or at what position. He provides some pop off the bench, having hit 11 home runs in only 154 at-bats last season for the Rangers during a year in which he missed time with a freak thumb injury that was caused by a rowdy teammate.
Baker sustained the injury when the teammate gave him a high-five with too much gusto.
“I had a teammate that was a little over-anxious with a high-five, and I kind of got sabotaged,” said Baker, who has refused to identify the perpetrator. “He was screwing around, and I wasn’t.”
Baker said the thumb is fine now, and he’s ready to take on whatever task the Marlins assign him.
Platoon or no platoon.