Angels manager Mike Scioscia promoted second baseman Howie Kendrick to the second spot in the lineup for Friday's game against the Oakland A's and said he intended to stick with the change for the forseeable future.
It's a decision that has been mulled for weeks, and one that Scioscia probably would've preferred to wait a little longer on, so as to shield Kendrick's rebuilding confidence. But with the Angels still-struggling offense swooning to new depths in the first two weeks of May, the time was right to make the move.
"One thing that's happening right now is that Bobby Abreu and Torii Hunter are just not getting the opportunities with runners in scoring position that we need," Scioscia said.
"So we just slotted Howie in there and moved everyone else down a spot. ... We're going to go with this look for a while and we can adjust it as we move forward."
Erick Aybar will remain in the leadoff position, followed by Kendrick, Abreu, Hunter, Kendry Morales and Hideki Matsui.
Matsui is in a rather wretched slump, hitting just .111 with no extra base hits in May. He began the year hitting fourth in the lineup and responded with a torrid start. But he has since cooled and been dropped two slots in the batting order.
The large media contingent from Japan reacted quickly to the move, but Scioscia was adamant the decision had nothing to do with Matsui.
"This isn't about Hideki at all," Scioscia said. "There's probably five or six guys in our lineup right now that are underperforming. This move was made for one aspect only and that's to try and get more guys on base for Bobby Abreu and Torii Hunter. We have to feed the middle of the lineup."
Abreu is hitting just .159 with one RBI in May. Hunter is also struggling, hitting just .211.
Kendrick has the highest batting average (.288) among regular starters. But the Angels have been cautious with him this year, batting him seventh or eighth in 27 of 35 games this year, because of his struggles during the first half of last season.
The lack of runners in scoring position is most noticeable for Abreu, who hit with men in scoring position in 28 percent of his at-bats last year (158 of 563) but in just 19.5 percent of his at-bats this season (27 of 138).
Hunter has hit with men in scoring position in 29 percent of his at-bats this season and 28 percent of his at-bats last season.
Scioscia partially attributed the lack of Abreu's opportunities to hit with men in scoring position to Brandon Wood's offensive struggles -- he's hitting just .168 -- from the ninth spot in the order.
"Brandon Wood, we've talked about his struggles, and with him being connected with Bobby Abreu in the two-hole, it wasn't setting the table the way we needed," Scioscia said. "So we're going to give this lineup a look."