GARY | When Adam Klein was on the Jolie JackHammers in 2009, the left-handed hitting outfielder came to bat with runners in scoring position late in a tight game against the RailCats.
The obvious move for manager Greg Tagert of the RailCats was to bring a solid left-handed reliever, Edwin Walker, in to face Klein. On the first pitch Klein lined an RBI single to the opposite field.
“There’s no better feeling than when a team brings in a left-handed pitcher just to face you, and you have success against him,” Klein said. “With this lineup, I think we know really well that we are going to face a lot of left-handed relief pitchers, and I’m actually really excited about that.”
So far in the young season, the RailCats’ batting lineup leans left considerably. In Thursday’s season opener the RailCats faced a right-handed starter and trotted out six left-handers in the starting nine. On Friday, the second game of the season-opening series with the Lincoln Saltdogs, Gary faced another righty and started five lefty hitters, with righty Ryan Babineau playing catcher instead of lefty Craig Maddox.
With lefty veteran Klein leading off, the lineup following him goes L-R-R-L-R-L-L-R.
Two of the lefties, Steve Liddle and Drew Martinez, made the team out of camp. Tagert acknowledged the presence of the former Twins and Angels farmhands, respectively, skewed his lineup to a lefty-dominated one.
Solid hitting will no doubt trump which side of the plate is the origin of the hitter’s shadow, but such a lefty-heavy lineup will force foes to think twice about using up their prized LOOGuy (left-handed one-out guy) specialists in situational bullpen quandaries.
“I think it could really work to an advantage for us,” Tagert said. “If you can have a couple guys who are comfortable out there against left-handers, you’re ahead of it. The key is having enough guys who are balanced offensively.”
With the active roster limited to 23 players for the first 10 days of the season and 22 for the rest of the year, it’s difficult to have many lefty-righty platoons.
Babineau, part of a necessary rotation at catcher, gave the RailCats a 1-0 lead Friday and scored Mike Massaro, another lefty who has great offensive balance and had singled.
Klein, who razzes Tagert about that hit in 2009 from time to time, is a rarer cat because he has better numbers against left-handers for his career.
“For me, it forces me to focus and concentrate a little more,” Klein said. “It also forces me to keep my hands inside the baseball. The key for a lefty facing a lefty is to keep your hands inside and hit to the opposite field.
“We don’t get a lot of lefties who are hitting the ball over the fence. We have ones who hit doubles and triples, and that’s how you have consistent success.”