The Boston Red Sox have demoted Andrew Benintendi from his usual leadoff spot for Thursday afternoon’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Alex Cora is mixing up the lineup for today’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays and the changes start at the top. Andrew Benintendi has primarily served as the leadoff hitter for the Boston Red Sox but a recent slump has pushed him down to the bottom half of the order.
Michael Chavis, the hero of Wednesday night’s extra-inning affair, takes over at the top of the lineup. Benintendi drops to sixth, the spot Chavis has occupied for nearly half of the games he’s started.
This will be the rookie’s second time starting in the leadoff spot, with the last occurrence coming in a game when Benintendi was rested. The swap sends a message that the Red Sox are seeking a spark at the top of the lineup, while they may also be hopeful that taking some pressure off Benintendi will get him going.
The drop to sixth may seem extreme for a hitter who has been cemented in either of the top two spots in the lineup for 43 of his 44 games and hasn’t batted lower than fifth this season. This move is warranted though based on his recent performance.
Benny had his batting average over the .300 mark less than a month ago but that average has tumbled all the way down to .266 during his slump. He’s 7-for-40 (.175) in his last nine games with only one extra-base hit.
Toronto sending lefty Clayton Richard to the mound must have played a part in the decision as well. Benintendi has struggled against southpaws, hitting .232 against lefties in his career and a miserable .211 this season.
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We shouldn’t assume that Benintendi has permanently lost his leadoff role but we’re at the point where we should be questioning if he belongs in that spot against lefties.
His place in the lineup isn’t the only change for Benintendi. He’s also moving over to center field, with Jackie Bradley Jr. sliding to right while Mookie Betts serves as the designated hitter. Steve Pearce will occupy Benny’s usual spot in left.
The outfield alignment isn’t ideal defensively but it’s an opportunity to give the reigning MVP a partial day of rest for a day game after an extra-innings night game. The DH spot is available with J.D. Martinez missing his fourth straight game due to illness and back soreness.
The Red Sox are sending Ryan Weber to the mound for his first start of the season. The right-hander has been used as a reliever in 19 of his 27 career appearances and will be making his first start since 2017.
Boston could use a boost from their offense to take some pressure off the inexperienced starter. These lineup changes could be just what they need.