Little Sarge wants to hit leadoff

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Gary Matthews, Jr. hit leadoff in an intrasquad game yesterday, and he liked it:

“Just the ability to switch hit, I’m comfortable taking pitches and
obviously I’ve done it and had success in Texas. Hitting leadoff is where I’ve had my most success, so it’s where I’m
most comfortable.”

Given his struggles in recent years the notion of sticking Matthews at the top of the order seems kind of nuts, but Matthews is right that he’s had most of his success at the top of the order. His career OPS is slightly higher batting third (.802) than leadoff (.792), he’s got three times as many plate appearances at the top of the order.

I wouldn’t hit him leadoff — if I’m Jerry Manuel I try to limit his plate appearances as much as possible while praying to the deity of my choice that Carlos Beltran gets better quickly — but it’s not like there are a ton of other options there, especially if Manuel follows through with his plan to bat Reyes third.

Colin Poche, Rays go to arbitration just $125,000 apart

Colin Poche torn UCL
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Reliever Colin Poche went to salary arbitration with the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday with the sides just $125,000 apart.

The gap between the $1.3 million the pitcher asked for and the $1,175,000 the team offered was the smallest among the 33 players who exchanged proposed arbitration figures last month. The case was heard by John Woods, Jeanne Vonhof and Walt De Treux, who will hold their decision until later this month.

A 29-year-old left-hander, Poche had Tommy John surgery on July 29, 2020, and returned to the major leagues last April 22 after six appearances at Triple-A Durham. Poche was 4-2 with a 3.99 ERA and seven saves in 65 relief appearances for the Rays. He struck out 64 and walked 22 in 58 2/3 innings.

Poche had a $707,800 salary last year.

Tampa Bay went to arbitration on Monday with reliever Ryan Thompson, whose decision also is being held until later this month. He asked for $1.2 million and the Rays argued for $1 million.

Rays right-hander Jason Adam and outfielder Harold Ramirez remain scheduled for hearings.

Players and teams have split four decisions thus far. All-Star pitcher Max Fried ($13.5 million) lost to Atlanta and reliever Diego Castillo ($2.95 million) was defeated by Seattle, while pitcher Jesus Luzardo ($2.45 million) and AL batting champion Luis Arraez ($6.1 million) both beat the Marlins.

A decision also is pending for Los Angeles Angels outfielder Hunter Renfroe.

Eighteen additional players are eligible for arbitration and hearings are scheduled through Feb. 17. Among the eligible players is Seattle utilityman Dylan Moore, who has a pending three-year contract worth $8,875,000.