Mets' Reyes could bat third… for a little while

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Mets manager Jerry Manuel has already come up with his first big idea of the spring; he wants to bat usual leadoff man Jose Reyes third, though only until Carlos Beltran returns from knee surgery.
“Reyes, in my opinion, has evolved,” Manuel told the New York Post “I could really stretch our lineup out if he is able to handle that spot.”
By stretching out the lineup, Manuel means he could place his lousier hitters at both the top and bottom of the order, rather than congregate them all in the fifth-through-eighth spots.
Reyes told SNY that he would be OK with the idea:
“Whatever spot he puts me in the lineup, I’m going to be able to do it. Whatever is best for the team, I’m going to do it. So let’s see what happens. He said when Beltran comes back, I’m going to be the leadoff guy again. I don’t know if he’s sure right now. We just talked about it yesterday. He doesn’t know if it’s going to happen or not. He’s going to think about it… He’s the boss. Whatever he says I’ll do it. I just want to be on the field playing baseball.”
I naturally assumed that David Wright, the best OBP guy on the team, would bat third with Beltran sidelined. However, it looks like Manuel still wants him in the fifth spot. As things stand now, this could be the Mets’ Opening Day lineup, along with each player’s career OBP:
1. Angel Pagan – CF – .331
2. Luis Castillo – 2B – .369
3. Jose Reyes – SS – .337
4. Jason Bay – LF – .376
5. David Wright – 3B – .389
6. Jeff Francoeur – RF – .311
7. David Murphy – 1B – .331
8. Omir Santos – C – .290
Reyes’ career mark doesn’t describe the player he is now — he’s been between .350 and .360 each of the last four seasons (including the 36 games last year before he got hurt). But to say that he’s evolved is baffling. He took a huge step forward in 2006, but he hasn’t gotten any better at all since. There’s little if anything to be gained by moving him down to the third spot for a month, and it actually could spell disaster if Reyes thinks it means he should focus more on hitting for power than getting on base.

Video: Nelson Cruz hits second-longest home run of 2016

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 14:  Nelson Cruz #23 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates his solo homerun with Daniel Vogelbach #20 of the Seattle Mariners to take a 2-1 lead over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the seventh inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 14, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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There’s certainly never a bad time to hit a home run, but when you get the opportunity to crush a triple-deck, 493-foot shot off of Tyler Duffey, you should take it. With the Mariners down 2-0 to the Twins in the fourth inning, Cruz hammered a fastball to deep left field for his 39th long ball of the season — and the second-longest home run hit in 2016, to boot.

It doesn’t hurt that the Mariners are 1.5 games back of a playoff spot, although they’ll have to oust the Blue Jays, Orioles, or Tigers to get a wild card. They’ve gone 3-3 in the last week, dropping two consecutive series to the Astros and Blue Jays and taking their series opener against Minnesota 10-1 on Friday night.

Cruz, for his part, entered Saturday’s game with a .299/.337/.610 batting line and six home runs in September. According to ESPN.com’s Home Run Tracker, Cruz sits behind Edwin Encarnacion and Mike Napoli with 13 “no-doubt” home runs in 2016, third-most among major league sluggers. It’s safe to say he can add Saturday’s moonshot to that list.

Marlins’ outfielder and undisputed home run king Giancarlo Stanton remains untouched at the top of the Statcast leaderboard with a 504-ft. home run, and it’s difficult to envision any slugger reaching beyond that before the end of the season. Even so, Cruz won’t need to clear 500 feet to extend an impressive hitting record. One more home run will put the 36-year-old at 40 on the year, making 2016 his third consecutive season with at least 40 homers, and his second such season doing so in Seattle.

Report: John Farrell won’t rule out a postseason return for Pablo Sandoval

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 11:  Pablo Sandoval #48 of the Boston Red Sox looks on from the dugout before the Red Sox home opener against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on April 11, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Orioles defeat the Red Sox 9-7.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.

On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.

At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.

If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.

Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.

Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.