SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Charlie Blackmon, the most prolific leadoff hitter in Colorado Rockies history, is back at the top of the batting order this season.
“I’ll be comfortable there, no problem,” Blackmon said.
Blackmon was the Rockies’ primary leadoff hitter from his first season as a regular in 2014 through 2019, and with it came immediate results.
He set records during his six-year run in the leadoff spot. In 2017, he set major league records with 103 RBI and 383 total bases from the top spot, and his 86 extra-base hits that year are a National League record and the third-most in major league history.
“It’s exciting when you are on base to start the game,” Blackmon said. “You feel like you have really done a great job for your team and put yourselves in a good position to score runs early, which is always great.”
Blackmon, 35, hit in the middle of the Rockies’ order the last two seasons, a move seen as a way to complement Trevor Story and create more production after the departure of Nolan Arenado in 2021.
While Story is gone, the arrival of Kris Bryant and Randal Grichuk this spring and the power shown by C.J. Cron a year ago prompted Rockies manager Bud Black to go back to Blackmon at leadoff.
“You like to get your best hitters at the top of the lineup,” Black said. “Charlie has proven to be a great major league hitter. For me the role is a couple of different things. A guy who can get on base. A guy you want up as many times as possible in a game. Good base runner. Maybe not based stealer any more, but a smart player.
“Understands the game. Understands what he needs to do to start a game. It could be anything, It could be first pitch hack, homer. Giving a great at-bat to see a number of pitches that the guys following behind him see early in a game. It’s many things. Charlie is capable of all those things.”
Brendan Rodgers, Bryant, Cron, Ryan McMahon and Grichuk are projected to follow Blackmon in varying orders in a lineup that is still somewhat fluid with the addition of the designated hitter.
“It’s a good problem when you have so many middle-of-the-order bats,” Blackmon said. “That’s really what we have going on.”
Because of the universal DH, the opportunity may increase for a leadoff man to hit with runners on base.
Blackmon no longer will be asked to steal 43 bases, as he did in 2015, but he does plan take advantage when the opportunity arises.
“It will be trying to run with a really high percentage,” Blackmon said. “I don’t think I’ll be pushing the envelope. If I go, I’ll try to make sure I’m safe.”
Source: ESPN MLB