Cabrera positioning himself for the leadoff role
With just 10 Grapefruit League games remaining, it’s still unclear exactly who will be filling the final spots on the Braves Opening Day roster. But with Nate McLouth still fighting to break out of his slump, there’s certainly reason to doubt that he will begin the season as the club’s leadoff hitter.
Melky Cabrera is positioned at the top of the lineup again for this afternoon’s game against the Mets and as I mentioned the other day, there’s at least reason to wonder if he could be there on a regular basis while the Braves use him as part of a platoon in left field and center field.
With this being said, it’s far too early to simply assume that McLouth won’t be able to right himself before the exhibition season concludes. While hitting eighth today, he’ll get his first chance to see if he benefited from the six plate appearances (one per inning) he gained during Sunday’s rain-shortened Minor League intra-squad game.
When it was mentioned that McLouth was 1-for-35 with 14 strikeouts, ESPN’s Peter Pascarelli thought back to his early days as an Orioles beat writer and told a story about the questions he asked Earl Weaver when Eddie Murray went 3-for-42 during Spring Training.
“Weaver told me, ‘he’s the worst Spring Training hitter ever,’” Pascarelli said. “Then he said, “don’t worry about him.’”
Based on memory, Pascarelli remembers Murray driving in somewhere around 120 runs that same season.
At the end of the day, Spring Training batting averages really don’t matter. But during these final days of the exhibition season, McLouth can provide some encouragement by at least putting the ball in play with greater regularity.
This marks the fourth time the Braves have seen the Mets this year and the first time that they will be facing a lineup that includes Jeff Francoeur, who enters this game hitting .194 (6-for-31) with a homer and four RBIs.
Jason Heyward is present and could be inserted during the late innings of this game, which will be televised by ESPN.