ST. LOUIS -- For the first time in Mets history, the pitcher is in the starting lineup in the No. 8 slot on Monday. Why?
Terry Collins said a perfect storm of factors made this the right day for such an alignment:
• Right pitcher. Jacob deGrom can handle the bat. The former college shortstop is hitting .455 (5-for-11) in his brief major league career. Collins indicated the only other currently active pitcher he would consider using in the No. 8 slot in the order is Jonathon Niese. Bartolo Colon, whose last major league hit came in 2005, particularly is off-limits.Kathy Willens/Associated Press
Jacob deGrom's hitting competence is one reason the pitcher is batting No. 8 for the first time in franchise history.
• Promise kept. Curtis Granderson did well in his first Mets start in the leadoff spot Sunday. He homered as part of a 2-for-3, two-walk performance. While Collins is not wed to keeping Granderson batting leadoff, he could not abandon it immediately after that type of performance.
"I was just telling Grandy the other day I was going to lead him off," Collins said. "I would hate to only lead him off one day and then jerk him out."
• The right No. 9 hitter. Collins said only two types of position players fit the No. 9 spot: a speed guy or a high on-base percentage guy -- say a .385 OBP hitter. With Eric Young Jr. returning from the DL, he fit the speed category.
Collins said there really wasn't another natural place to place E.Y. Jr. in the lineup anyway if Granderson was going to lead off. This way, E.Y. Jr. will essentially be the leadoff hitter with Granderson batting second after the first time the pitcher bats in the game.
The ultimate motivation for all of this is to maximize the number of RBI opportunities for David Wright, while ensuring Wright bats in the first inning and has his at-bats maximized.
"That is the only goal," Collins said. "And Dan [Murphy] in the same boat. You're looking at three very good hitters at Nos. 2, 3 and 4 [with Bobby Abreu] who hopefully can come up with more runners on."
Collins said he did not consider using this alignment at the start of the season because he did not like the look after testing it in spring training. That's partly because Colon and Jenrry Mejia, a starter back then, both have noncompetitive at-bats.
"The other three guys we thought about doing it with," Collins said. "We just didn't do it because I just didn't like the way it was looking. And today's just a little different example with who we have in the lineup and where they might fit, and the fact I told Grandy, 'Look, I'm going to lead you off.' I only lead him off for one day and he hits a homer and the next day he's hitting someplace else? I didn't like the looks of that."