"Most of the time, hitters like a certain place in the lineup to hit, just like they have a certain number they like to wear," Pentland said. "They don't always get their wish. Over the years, I've had some battles with guys that thought they should be hitting in different positions than they were."The manager has to move guys around to put them in position to drive in runs, get on base, or do whatever they do best. It can be a balancing act to put them where they want to be and where they need to be." Thanks to the current information age, printouts and charts of head-to-head matchups for every pitcher and hitter in professional baseball are available on a daily basis. Other factors, such as who's hot and who's not, also enter the equation. So does speed vs. on-base percentage. "We put that on the chalkboard and said, 'If we do this combination, it's this, if we do that combination, it's that.'" Who bats behind Ichiro this season figures to be an ongoing subplot throughout the spring. McLaren took a look at Betancourt in the No. 2 spot on Wednesday, and the shortstop went 3-for-4 against the Angels. But he doesn't walk much -- 15 walks in 536 at-bats last season -- and had a .308 on-base percentage. But Betancourt has some speed and McLaren believes 20 stolen bases are possible. Vidro is the incumbent No. 2 hitter. He had a .313 batting average (105-for-336) with a .380 on-base percentage as the No. 2 hitter last season, while Beltre (.265) and Lopez (.266) contributed 83 hits in 313 at-bats between them. Wilkerson went 13-for-36 as the No. 2 hitter with the Rangers last season. Whatever lineup McLaren and his coaching staff come up with is, of course, subject to change, which could be a good thing. "I've seen guys move from one position in the lineup to another and all of a sudden go on a tear," Pentland said. "I can remember moving Devon White from first to fifth and he had 70 RBIs the second half of the season. "Sometimes it ticks them off so much that it lights a fire under them," Pentland said, adding that there probably will be plenty of lineup movement again in 2008. "Nothing is really locked in stone, although Ichiro is the closest," he said. "He could hit anywhere in the lineup, but he's the best leadoff hitter in the game."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.