PITTSBURGH — DJ LeMahieu has become the Rockies’ leadoff hitter out of necessity early this season, and he’s been thriving in that role, albeit for a short amount of time.
Now manager Bud Black is considering — just considering, mind you — the idea of keep the second baseman there.
LeMahieu, who usually bats second, has taken over the top spot because of injuries to usual leadoff hitter Charlie Blackmon, and because Nolan Arenado, normally the No. 3 hitter, is serving a five-game suspension for fighting. Arenado is scheduled to return Friday when the Rockies host the Cubs at Coors Field.
Blackmon, healthy again, has been producing from the three-hole in Arenado’s absence.
“Potentially, you could see DJ leading off, with Charlie second, Nolan third,” Black said prior to Colorado’s Monday night game against the Pirates at PNC Park. “That could happen, for sure. We think about these things. We talk about these things, a lot.
“Ultimately, the guys have to hit, no matter where they are. That’s the key. You want to have five, six guys hitting.”
Blackmon had an historic season from the leadoff spot last season, blasting 37 homers and driving in 103 or his 104 runs from the top spot, setting a big-league record. But dropping Blackmon into a more traditional power slot, such as batting third full time, has it’s advantages.
As for LeMahieu taking over the leadoff spot, Black can see some reasons for doing it.
“Like for any leadoff hitter, the on-base percentage (matters) and we like the way he’s swinging now,” Black said. “He’s not afraid to hit with two strikes. He’s not afraid to take pitches for the other fellas (to give hitters a look), starting off the game.
“He’s shown a little bit of danger this season, with the homers. Not that he’s going to try to hit homers, but this surge of power early in the year is something that pitchers have to be aware of.”
Overall, LeMahieu is batting .309 (21-for-68) with five homers, a .382 on-base percentage and a .985 OPS. In seven games in the leadoff spot, he’s batting .310 (9-for-29) with three homers, a .333 on-base percentage and a 1.057 OPS.
All five of LeMahiue’s homers have come on the road. Last year, he didn’t hit his fifth (and sixth) homers until Aug. 26 at Atlanta. In 2016, when he slugged a career-high 11 home runs, homer No. 5 didn’t arrive until June 25 vs. Arizona.