Melvin tweaks opening lineup
D-backs manager to sit Upton, Reynolds in matchup move
PHOENIX -- In case anyone doubted just how serious Bob Melvin was about putting his best nine players on the field each game, the D-backs manager announced on Sunday that his Opening Day lineup would not include right fielder Justin Upton or third baseman Mark Reynolds.
With right-hander Aaron Cook getting the start for the Rockies on Monday at Chase Field, Melvin followed through on his promise this spring to get more left-handed bats in the lineup against tough right-handed pitchers by putting switch-hitter Tony Clark at first and moving Chad Tracy from first to third.
Eric Byrnes will start in right in place of Upton.
"This is more of a matchup thing," Melvin said of Upton and Reynolds being out of the lineup. "Both those guys are my starters and they'll be back in there the next day."
Melvin met individually with Upton and Reynolds on Sunday to inform them of his decision and then addressed the entire team about the goals for 2009.
Upton, a five-tool player who came to the big leagues at the age of 19 in 2007, struggled at the plate this spring, finishing with a .197 mark. Reynolds had a good spring, hitting .323 and showed signs of improvement in cutting down his strikeouts. Last year, Reynolds set a Major League record with 204 whiffs.
Byrnes, meanwhile, got a late start to the spring as he continued to recover from a torn hamstring that cost him the second half of last year. Once he started playing, Byrnes showed no ill effects from the injury and had a tremendous spring at the plate, hitting .344 and showing flashes of his previous speed when running the bases.
The veteran Clark hit .340 this spring.
Melvin was asked if he was trying to send a message to Upton about his spring struggles.
"The only message that we're sending is that we're trying to run the best lineup out there on a particular day," Melvin said. "They know that. We addressed that. So there's no hidden messages for anybody. It's about winning and everybody is on board with that."
When it was pointed out to him that players view starting on Opening Day as a big deal, Melvin said the timing of the moves were coincidental. Had Cook been pitching the second day rather than the first, that's when the changes would have happened.
"That's the way it came up on the schedule," he said. "These guys are in this thing to win. I had to bite my tongue on a few Opening Days, too."
The rest of the lineup did not include any surprises. Chris Snyder will be behind the plate with Felipe Lopez at second base and Stephen Drew at shortstop. Conor Jackson will start in left field and Chris Young in center.
As for the batting order, Melvin said, "I'm not completely settled on that yet."
One thing the manager does seem set on, judging by who is in the lineup, is that winning will trump development in 2009.
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.