03/30/08 7:44 PM ET
Skip' says Skip will bat atop lineup
La Russa confident Schumaker can be a leadoff mainstay
By Nate Latsch / Special to MLB.com
Perhaps no spot in the lineup has been more talked about or scrutinized than the leadoff slot, and even though La Russa had yet to tell his player, he had outfielder Skip Schumaker lined up for that assignment.
"I would hate to say he's penciled in," La Russa said. "That's not a lot of confidence when you pencil him in. We'll pen him in. Of all the things that happened in Spring Training, that was as important as anything. That really helps set up the lineup when you're not mixing and matching at the top all the time. He did a really good job, and I think he'll do a good job for us."
Schumaker, who hit .333 in 177 at-bats for the Cardinals last season, had batted leadoff for the last two and a half weeks of Spring Training, but had yet to receive the news that he was getting the nod against the Rockies on Opening Day on Monday.
"I've been kind of on a roller coaster the last three years in the big leagues and been the backup player for most of my career," Schumaker said, "so if it means I get to start one of these games, it would be nice."
The left-handed-hitting outfielder knows what he has to do when he's hitting at the top of the lineup. Schumaker, who had an on-base percentage of .358 a year ago, knows he has to get on base in front of power hitters Albert Pujols, Troy Glaus and Rick Ankiel.
"It's just getting on in front of Albert," he said. "If it's one or two in the lineup or nine in the lineup, you want to get on base in front of the big guys: Albert, Troy and Ank. That's the main thing."
La Russa's early look at the Opening Day lineup against Colorado left-hander Jeff Francis had Schumaker leading off and playing left field, right fielder Ryan Ludwick batting second, first baseman Pujols hitting third, new third baseman Glaus in the cleanup spot, Ankiel batting fifth and playing center field, catcher Yadier Molina hitting sixth, shortstop Cesar Izturis batting seventh, pitcher Adam Wainwright hitting eighth and Aaron Miles batting ninth and playing second base.
La Russa said he was considering switching Ludwick and Ankiel in the lineup and wanted to give switch-hitting Miles the start at second instead of the left-handed-hitting Adam Kennedy with a few Colorado right-handers on tap for the remainder of the series.
Nate Latsch is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.