Jays getting used to batting Hill No. 2
Manager Gaston asks second baseman not to change hitting style
TAMPA, Fla. -- For a few years now, the Blue Jays have described Aaron Hill as the type of hitter who could someday find a home in their lineup's No. 2 spot. Manager Cito Gaston is finally putting that talk to the test.
This spring, Gaston has regularly penciled Hill's name into the lineup as the No. 2 hitter -- he hit out of that spot again on Monday against the Yankees -- and the manager plans on using the second baseman in that slot during the upcoming season. Gaston's only message to Hill has been not to change his approach at the plate due to his new position in the order.
"I want him to just take it on and be himself, as he has in the past," Gaston said. "Really, if you look around, who would you put in the two-spot?"
Gaston likes Hill's ability to take pitches to the opposite field and move runners, which are characteristics a team wants in a second hitter. Even so, Gaston said Hill fits nicely into the No. 2 spot considering the makeup of the rest of the lineup.
The way things currently stand, center fielder Vernon Wells, right fielder Alex Rios and first baseman Lyle Overbay project as the Nos. 3-5 hitters. The next four spots will likely fall to third baseman Scott Rolen, designated hitter Adam Lind, catcher Rod Barajas and left fielder Travis Snider -- not necessarily in that order.
With shortstop Marco Scutaro projected to be the leadoff man, Gaston feels the best spot in the order for Hill is second. In his career, Hill has spent the most time batting seventh (102 games) and eighth (104), but Gaston doesn't want to have Hill's bat that low in the lineup.
"I don't want him down that far -- not at all," Gaston said. "He can hit the ball the other way. He pretty much stays up the alleys, but he can go the other way with the ball. I think that's a good spot for him to hit out of."
In his career as a No. 2 hitter, Hill has posted a .271 average with a .335 on-base percentage and a .347 slugging percentage over 50 games, compiling two home runs, nine doubles, 17 RBIs and 22 runs. Hill's 2008 season ended prematurely after he sustained a concussion in late May.
While Hill was sidelined, utility man Joe Inglett did an admirable job, but the Blue Jays undoubtedly missed Hill's offense. During his last full season, in 2007, Hill hit .291 with 17 homers, 47 doubles and 78 RBIs over 160 games.
"I didn't get a chance to see him play last year," said Gaston, who was hired as manager last June 20. "But I look at stats, and this guy has some good stats against a lot of good pitchers in this league. I kind of wish I did have him last year at times, but Joe did a great job for us."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.