Juan Lagares dropped to ninth, where Mets originally planned

NEW YORK -- Juan Lagares will start a game as the New York Mets' No. 9 hitter for the first time in his major league career on Sunday. He could be situated there for a while, too.

Manager Terry Collins noted Sunday that he originally intended to bat Lagares ninth out of spring training. Lagares' sizzling Grapefruit League production instead prompted Collins to use Lagares as the No. 6 hitter during the regular season's opening week.

Collins said he believes dropping Lagares to ninth will reduce pressure on him to produce and perhaps reduce his tendency to chase pitches out of the strike zone as well.

Lagares is 3-for-34 over his past eight games.

The manager suggested the strain near Lagares' right armpit, which prompted Lagares to miss three games in Chicago last week, may also be a drag on the center fielder's production -- although Lagares has told his manager the injury is not a factor.

Collins pointed to the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers -- the Mets' two most recent opponents -- as teams that are using a "second leadoff hitter" in the No. 9 hole. The Cubs bat Addison Russell ninth. The Brewers have just started batting their pitcher eighth -- Hector Gomez started as the No. 9 hitter on Friday. Luis Sardinas started in that slot Saturday.