Despite the fact that Abreu’s approach of power, mixed with an ability to use all fields, seems to lend itself to the third hole on a regular basis, the rookie from Cuba has been sharing the spot with Conor Gillaspie this season.
In fact, heading into Friday’s game, Abreu and Gillaspie had each batted in the No. 3 hole 41 times. Dayan Viciedo and Alexei Ramirez have shared the spot a handful of times. Abreu has been the cleanup hitter in 30 games.
“There are times when I think we're better off with (Abreu) batting third,” manager Robin Ventura said. “And there are times, when Conor's swinging it good, and depending on the matchup, it's nice to have Conor in front of him, get some more guys on base when he gets up there. I don't think there's any set way to do it with him but I know I like guys on base when (Abreu) comes to the plate.”
Ventura typically bats Gillaspie in the No 3 hole when a right-hander is on the mound and uses Abreu there vs. a left-hander, like the Seattle Mariners' Roenis Elias on Friday. But not always. Against Los Angeles Angels right-hander Jered Weaver on Tuesday, Abreu batted third and Gillaspie batted sixth.
Abreu has a .264 batting average, .313 on-base percentage and a .601 slugging percentage as a No. 3 hitter compared to .305/.359/.661 marks as a cleanup hitter. But he has driven in 1.07 runs per game in the third spot (44 total) and 0.77 runs per game in the fourth spot (23 total).
Gillaspie has marks of .308/.356/.415 as a No. 3 hitter. The most games he has at any other spot are his six in the No. 6 hole. Gillaspie has driven in 0.37 runs per game as a No. 3 hitter.
“(Gillaspie) makes solid contact,” Ventura said. “Maybe not the home runs, even though he hit one the other day, but as far as him putting it in play and getting it on the barrel, he's as good as we have.”
But when it comes to an overall ability to hit, it’s hard for anybody to match Abreu.
“(Abreu) can bat anywhere,” Ventura said. “I wouldn't necessarily bat him leadoff, but other than that, any spot in the lineup would be a good one. But you want him to get up there more times than not with guys on base.”