Lewis Brinson doesn’t profile as a leadoff man. He’s a table cleaner, not a table setter, a run producer whose primary duty has typically been to empty the bases with his bat, not scratch his way aboard by any means necessary.
But given the lack of better alternatives, Marlins manager Don Mattingly is experimenting with Brinson in the top spot. Brinson is scheduled to bat leadoff for the second time this spring on Tuesday.
“It’s just a discussion about the leadoff spot,” Mattingly said. “There’s a number of guys we’ve talked about for that spot. And it may be an evolving spot over the course of the year.”
When he still had Dee Gordon, Mattingly never had to think about whose name he’d pencil in first on his lineup card. But after trading Gordon, the Marlins were left without a true leadoff hitter.
As such, settling on one has been a work in progress.
Mattingly has used six different leadoff hitters over the past six games, and Brinson will make seven.
“I don’t see our club as being a set lineup type thing,” Mattingly said. “It’s not our personnel right now. There will be a few spots in there I think are fairly solid.”
Those would include Justin Bour in the cleanup spot and Starlin Castro in the No. 3 hole.
But leadoff? That’s a different story.
Derek Dietrich has hit there this spring. So have Magneuris Sierra, Braxton Lee, Miguel Rojas, Cameron Maybin, J.B. Shuck and Peter Mooney.
While it’s not his customary role, Brinson has hit leadoff before. In fact, he batted in the leadoff position his first game in the majors after being called up by the Brewers last June.
“Whether I’m hitting ninth, eighth — as long as I’m in the lineup, I don’t care,” Brinson said. “Whatever lineup [Mattingly] runs out there, hopefully I’m in there.”
Mattingly likes the idea of having home run pop at the top, something Gordon and a host of former Marlins leadoff men — Juan Pierre, Luis Castillo, and others — didn’t possess.
But reaching base still remains the primary objective of any leadoff hitter.
“Being on base, making things happen on base, that’s the big thing,” Brinson said. “[The Brewers] kind of expressed to me when I as over there, wherever you hit be the same game. Don’t try to be a scrappy little leadoff hitter. I’m not that guy. Being a leadoff guy, I just try to be the same guy.”
Brinson wouldn’t be the first Marlins player to start off on top before dropping down later into a run-producing spot. Hanley Ramirez won Rookie of the Year honors in 2006 as the Marlins’ leadoff man and ended up spending three years atop the lineup card.
Christian Yelich, who was dealt to Milwaukee in the Brinson trade, was their leadoff hitter in 2014.
As unclear as the leadoff spot is for the Marlins, the starting rotation is even more muddled.
Only José Ureña and Dan Straily have locked up rotation spots.
But one candidate who could work his way into the picture — either by Opening Day or shortly thereafter — is right-hander, Elieser Hernandez, one of the Marlins’ two Rule 5 draft picks in December.
“He’s been pretty impressive in camp,” Mattingly said of Hernandez, who has never pitched above the High A level.
The problem for Hernandez is that he’s missed the past eight days after having his wisdom teeth removed. As a result, he might not be ready for the start of the season.
But Mattingly said Hernandez should pitch again soon.
“It’s must a matter of getting him back out there for the final part [of spring training],” Mattingly said.