CLEVELAND — There was no off-day revelation or some advanced scouting or statistical metric that caused manger Lloyd McClendon to move Dustin Ackley into the leadoff spot for the first time this season.
McClendon also put rookie Chris Taylor at the No. 2 spot Tuesday and moved the slumping James Jones to ninth in the order.
“I’m just trying to jump-start our offense,” he said. “We lost five one-run games in the last week. I’m just trying something different and hopefully it can jump-start our guys. We’ve put a little speed down at the bottom with (Jonesy). We’ll see what happens.”
Ackley thought he’d be batting second again after netting five hits in his past two games in the spot. Instead, McClendon moved him to leadoff, where he has started 103 times in his career.
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The idea worked.
Ackley had three hits Tuesday.
In 11 games since the All-Star break, Ackley is hitting .444 (20 for 45) with seven doubles and one triple.
Ackley says he won’t change anything — he’ has done it enough to know that you can’t do that and hit leadoff. He won’t be trying to channel Rickey Henderson.
“In Triple A, when I started leading off, I think it was kind of getting those thoughts out of your head,” he said. “I think the more you tried to overthink being the leadoff hitter and trying to see pitches, that’s when you get yourself in trouble. I think you just have to take it as no different than hitting second.”
Ackley has been comfortable at the plate. The results have followed.
“It’s been huge,” he said. “The way I felt the last few weeks, starting like a day or two before the All-Star break has been way better that it was the whole year. Early on in the season, I felt great. And then there was a month or two gap where I didn’t feel right. But now it feels as good as it has for me in a long time.”
Ackley isn’t passive or apprehensive at the plate. He’s not fouling off fastballs he should be driving. It’s a matter of comfort and not being caught up in the mechanics of his swing.
“That’s been the whole goal for the whole year is to get my swing to a point where I don’t have to think when I get up there,” he said.
He has been hitting the ball to left field and driving fastballs on the outer half of the plate.
“I’m not thinking about going that way,” he said. “I’m just hitting where it is pitched, that’s it. I think maybe before I was really trying to go that way. When you start trying to do this and trying do that, it doesn’t work. I think it just has to happen. For me, that’s been the separator. ”
• Michael Saunders took on-field batting practice Tuesday for the first time since suffering a grade 2 oblique strain. Saunders has been hitting soft toss and off a tee.
“Barring any setbacks, I feel like I’m getting close,” he said before the workout. “I’m not going up there and swinging 100 percent right now. But that being said, I don’t think I ever try to do that in a game either. I feel like I can put a good competitive swing on the ball right now and as the days go by here in Cleveland and actually taking BP, we’ll know more.”
• James Paxton is in Cleveland. He’ll throw a bullpen session on Wednesday. If all goes well, he could take the vacant fifth spot in the rotation and start on Saturday in Baltimore. McClendon said that’s a “strong possibility.”