Protecting Stanton is a priority for Marlins

Bour, Prado are Mattingly's top options to hit in fifth spot

Protecting Stanton is a priority for Marlins

JUPITER, Fla. -- Marlins manager Don Mattingly has pretty much settled on the top of his batting order, at least the first four spots. What's still being evaluated in how best to protect the club's most feared player, cleanup hitter Giancarlo Stanton.

Justin Bour and Martin Prado are the likely candidates to hit in the fifth spot, but Mattingly is still piecing together how best to structure the lineup after Stanton.

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Bour was in the fifth spot on Friday night against the Nationals. But that could be subject to change, depending on the opposing starting pitcher.

The left-handed-hitting Bour hasn't had much experience against lefties, batting .221 in 68 at-bats last year. If he struggles with southpaws, Bour could become a platoon option at first base with Chris Johnson.

Prado doesn't provide the power threat of Bour, who belted 23 homers last year. But Prado is a proven veteran and a strong situational hitter.

Without question, Stanton is the key to maximizing the order. As long as he's in the lineup, the Marlins set up with Dee Gordon leading off, followed by Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich and Stanton.

"[Stanton] kind of sets your lineup up in a different way," Mattingly said. "He just kind of brings an instant run at any time. If we can get guys on base, and we put them where they have to pitch to him, that's really where you try to put your lineup together.

"I like Christian at three. I like Ozuna at two, and obviously Dee one."

What follows could be in flux. On Friday, it was Bour, Prado, Adeiny Hechavarria, Jeff Mathis and the pitcher, David Phelps.

When regular catcher J.T. Realmuto is in the lineup, he is a probable choice at seven.

"I'm trying to figure out behind [Stanton]," Mattingly said. "Obviously, we have to get J.B. going, and Martin. If those guys are swinging the bat, then it just puts more pressure on the opposing team."

There is a chance Prado becomes a fixture in the fifth spot once the season gets going because opponents may opt to pitch around Stanton and then bring in a lefty for Bour.

Mattingly then may be forced to pinch-hit.

"If J.B. puts me in a spot where I have to pinch-hit all the time, that puts me in a little bit of a bind late in the game, too."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.