Kurt Suzuki set to bat fifth in A's order
PHOENIX — Kurt Suzuki's days of bouncing around Oakland manager Bob Geren's lineup card may be over, though the Athletics' most productive hitter in 2009 isn't going to settle in just yet.
Suzuki, the Maui native who became only the second catcher in franchise history to lead the team in RBIs with 88 last season, was one of Oakland's most versatile offensive players as he batted in every spot in the lineup except for ninth but has spent most of this spring hitting third and fifth.
The hope is that with the offseason additions of speedy outfielder Coco Crisp and Kevin Kouzmanoff, along with the return of oft-injured slugger Eric Chavez, the A's won't need to move Suzuki around as much.
At least that's the plan.
"In the perfect world you'd like to have one set lineup throughout the season without any changes but that's unrealistic," Suzuki said Friday. "I feel comfortable anywhere in the lineup, first, second, third, fourth, I really don't have a preference. (Geren) understands that he can move me all over the place because I'm willing to do whatever it takes."
Suzuki, who got a rare day off Friday, had to become the A's do-all hitter last season out of necessity as Geren tried numerous ways to jump-start an offense that was last in the American League in home runs and slugging percentage.
While he spent most of his time fifth in Oakland's batting order, Suzuki also hit third and sixth in 28 games each and had another 26 games batting second in the lineup. He even had one game batting leadoff, going 1 for 4 with a home run against the Angels on May 4.
Despite moving all around the lineup, Suzuki still led the A's in hits (156), doubles (37) and RBIs and was second in home runs (15) and runs scored (74). The 88 RBIs are the second most by an A's catcher.
Geren originally planned to have Suzuki hit third this season but said earlier this week he prefers using Ryan Sweeney there while dropping Suzuki to fifth. For now.
"First of all, (Suzuki) doesn't mind where he hits," Geren said. "If we can get (him into) a consistent spot ... we'll try to do that. But it is nice to know that he's valuable in different spots and he's comfortable in different spots."
Suzuki was equally valuable behind the plate as a steadying force for the youngest starting pitching staff in the majors despite being a second-year player himself.
He handled the young pitchers the same way he handled being moved around in the lineup.
"Everybody's looking at you so you have to have that about you, that confidence," Suzuki said. "I built a relationship with these pitchers to where I'll just talk to them. Not in front of everybody but during stretch or whatever. That's how I like to handle it. I just try to blend in and have fun."