TEMPE, Ariz. -- Last season, the average amount of plate appearances for the cleanup hitter spot in the batting order was 705. For the No. 3 hitter in the order, it was 721.
That's a big reason why a team's most dangerous hitter -- and for the Angels, that distinction falls squarely on new first baseman Albert Pujols -- would preferably bat third instead of fourth.
"There's a little bit to that, but you also like to get that presence up in the first inning," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "I mean if he's getting on base with two outs, and you have a guy behind him, and he keeps an inning going in the first inning, you have a chance to score in the first inning again. If he's hitting fourth early in the game, if [the lineup goes down in order], he's leading off the second. Now you can never tell how an order is going to flow after that, but you can line it up right away from the first inning."
Scioscia is still weighing multiple lineup options, including which combination will work best in front of Pujols -- Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar, Peter Bourjos, Alberto Callaspo, Bobby Abreu and even Vernon Wells all came up in that discussion on Thursday -- and he even sees a situation where Pujols would bat fourth.
The Angels' skipper prefers Pujols to hit third, which is where he hit throughout the vast majority of his 11-year career in St. Louis.
But other factors could push Pujols back to the cleanup spot.
"If there's issues with our [No. 9 hitter] not being productive, our 1 and 2 guys struggling a bit, there's definitely a look that we're going to have that might put [high on-base guys] 1-2-3 with Albert hitting fourth," Scioscia said. "That's a possibility. It's not our preference. But you have to consider it."