Padres rookie Josh Barfield must have felt like Ted Williams as he stormed through the month of July with a .400 batting average and grabbed the National League Rookie of the Month Award. But with a bit of a twist. Williams usually occupied a spot high in the batting order while Barfield hits just one spot ahead of the pitcher -- eighth. The Padres' rookie second baseman made the eighth spot work for him in July, leading all NL rookies in hits with 41, posting eight doubles, one triple, three home runs and 13 RBIs. His teammates believe that Barfield gives the lineup balance and helps present problems that pitchers have difficulty adapting to.
"There's a lot of value in having productivity all through the lineup," outfielder Dave Roberts said. "That's something a lot of teams can't boast. What gives pitchers problems are lineups where they can't take a breather. With a hitter like Josh in the eight-hole, being aggressive, getting in scoring position, it creates a lot of opportunities for us on top -- and I take a lot of pride in driving in runs when I have the chance." While Barfield has said that he would rather hit higher in the lineup, claiming that it's easier to get into the flow of the game when getting at-bats early, manager Bruce Bochy is reluctant to move his rookie anywhere, and the results are proving his decision to be the correct one. "He's so good there," Bochy said of Barfield, referring to the No. 8 spot. "[Padres hitting coach] Merv [Rettenmund] and I talk about it all the time, and he agrees that it's an important spot down there and Josh is giving us a lot there. I could see him hitting second. He's not the [prototype] No. 2 guy, because he doesn't take a lot of pitches, but he goes the other way well, and he's a smart hitter, getting better all the time. We could hit [Mike] Cameron fifth or sixth. But I think we'll keep it this way for now." Aggressiveness is part and parcel of Barfield's game, who is not only a distraction in the No. 8 hole, but also on the basepaths. The rookie stole seven bases in July and has 16 thefts on the year - and his speed is resulting in more wins for his club. "Josh won the game for us with his hustle -- no question," Bochy said after Barfield stretched a single to a double and then scored the winning run against the Dodgers on July 24. "...It started with Josh, busting tail from home plate to get to second. "He's exciting. He's got great instincts. He's a very aggressive rookie. He doesn't back off." Other National League rookies receiving votes were the Dodgers' Andre Ethier (.362, 5 HR, 18 RBIs); the Marlins' Scott Olsen (3-0, 2.48 ERA, 33 SO) and Anibal Sanchez (3-1, 5.19 ERA, 18 SO); the Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman (.333, 3 HR, 19 RBIs); the Giants' Eliezer Alfonzo (.315, 6 HR, 16 RBIs); the Mets' John Maine (1-2, 1.63 ERA, 21 SO); the Phillies' Chris Coste (.372, 3 HR, 13 RBIs); and the Brewers' Prince Fielder (.303, 3 HR, 13 RBIs).
Michael Walsh is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.