OAKLAND – Josh Donaldson has been a pinball in the A’s batting order, bouncing around and filling in wherever he might be needed.
He’s been penciled into the No. 2 spot each of the past four games, going 7 for 16 with four extra-base hits and four runs, and he’s hitting second again Saturday night against Tampa Bay.
“Being in the ‘2’ hole as opposed to the 6, 7, or 8 hole, the difference is I always feel like I’m about to come up,” Donaldson, 27, said. “Sometimes when you’re in the lower half of the order, it can feel like an hour since you’ve seen a pitch. I’m always in the rhythm of the game (hitting higher).”
The third baseman has hit in every batting order position this season except for leadoff and the ninth spot. He began the year hitting mainly in the lower third of the lineup. But Donaldson has blossomed into one of the team’s top offensive threats in his first full major league season, prompting his climb up the order.
He entered Saturday leading the A’s with a .296 average and 77 RBI, to go with 19 home runs. A’s manager Bob Melvin said he likes slotting Donaldson second in part because it splits up Donaldson from another right-handed hitter, Yoenis Cespedes, when Melvin uses a lefty-dominated lineup.
“It gets him up a little bit sooner,” Melvin said. “He’s apt to give Coco (Crisp) a little time to run. He does like (going for) the RBI with a guy on second base. It’s a key spot in the lineup. Whether he’s hitting 2, 3, 4 or 5, all those spots are potential run-producing spots.”
Donaldson also believes he gets better pitches to hit at the top of the lineup because pitchers feel like a walk will be more costly.
“Believe it or not, I feel like hitting seventh or eighth in a lineup is harder just for the simple fact that guys aren’t as prone to challenging you.”