Granderson slots into cleanup spot for Mets

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) Much has been made of the New York Mets' options when it comes to constructing a batting order, but one point was driven home most spring training mornings in the clubhouse when manager Terry Collins posted the team's lineup: He likes having Curtis Granderson hit cleanup.

In the middle of the Grapefruit League, Collins decided on his lineup against right-handed starting pitching, which makes up the majority of games and will be used against the likes of Washington's Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, plus opposite Atlanta's Julio Teheran, who gets Monday's opening day nod against the Mets at Citi Field.

Collins has used speedy leadoff hitter Jose Reyes, productive shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and slugging superstar Yoenis Cespedes in the top three positions versus righties.

Then comes Granderson, who carried the Mets in September and October during the team's strong surge to the NL wild-card game while batting in the four hole.

''Any time you get guys who get on base, the situation that presents itself for you changes a couple of different things,'' Granderson said Thursday as the club was breaking camp and preparing to head to New York.

Granderson said he ''just started seeing the ball better'' while hitting cleanup, but he appears to have locked down that spot for now and will likely be in it against Teheran and the Braves.

The 36-year-old lefty hitter had 30 home runs but just 59 RBIs in 2016 - tied for the lowest RBI total ever in major league history for a batter who posted 30 or more homers.

Granderson, however, drove in 21 runs after Sept. 1 when he was mostly batting cleanup, hitting .302 with a .414 slugging percentage.

Overall, his batting average was .237 for the year. But in his 23 games hitting in the fourth spot, he was exceptional - a .321 average, .440 on-base percentage and .605 slugging percentage, with six homers and 18 RBIs.

''The guys at the top have been doing it. You've got Ces in the middle, and Grandy got red-hot when he was hitting fourth last year. I kind of like the looks of it,'' Collins said of the order.

Granderson came through in the clutch last Fall, but plenty of help is behind him if he fails to succeed. Neil Walker, Jay Bruce and Lucas Duda grid into the 5-7 spots, while streaky-hitting catcher Travis d'Arnaud can also get hot and produce.

''That's been one of the best things about our team - there's not guy that you can pitch around. Therefore, we'll be able to be successful. Any hitter on our team can hurt you at any time,'' said Granderson.

The lineup's structure also appeals to Collins, who said pitchers will not get a chance to catch a breather at the order's bottom.

''We're a power-hitting team,'' Collins added. ''When you look at guys six, seven and eight, they've got the chance to hit the ball out of the ballpark. That makes it pretty good.''

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