MLB managers trying to work ahead with ever-evolving lineups

Apr 25, 2022, 11:25 AM | Updated: 11:28 pm
New York Mets manager Buck Showalter pauses in the dugout prior to a baseball game against the Ariz...

New York Mets manager Buck Showalter pauses in the dugout prior to a baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Sunday, April 24, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

              New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone looks on from the dugout during the first inning of a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles, Saturday, April 16, 2022, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
            
              New York Mets' Jeff McNeil scores on a base hit by Tomas Nido during the fifth inning of a baseball game as Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Carson Kelly watches the play, Saturday, April 23, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

NEW YORK (AP) — Jeff McNeil knows the stomach-drop feeling of walking into the clubhouse, glancing at that day’s lineup and being caught off guard when his name wasn’t there.

“Oh yeah, it’s definitely happened,” said the New York Mets’ All-Star infielder and outfielder.

Happily for him, it’s an experience big leaguers are having less and less. At a time when ball clubs are valuing lineup versatility like never before, the communication between managers and players over who is playing — and at which position — has taken on greater importance.

“I tell them everything I know,” first-year Mets manager Buck Showalter said.

Part-time players Robinson Canó, Dominic Smith and J.D. Davis have full-time talents and resumes, but working them into the lineup requires near-constant shuffling by Showalter. McNeil needs to know if he’s playing second base or left field, depending on if Canó is headed toward the keystone. Smith can spell Pete Alonso at first, pushing the Polar Bear to designated hitter. J.D. Davis plays left field and third base, meaning he might displace one of several teammates.

And with the designated hitter going universal this year, the National League club has another slot that needs to be filled each day. Showalter has already used seven players there.

Yet, Mets players say there hasn’t been any game-day surprises from Showalter.

“Most of the time, you know exactly what’s going to happen before it does,” backup infielder Luis Guillorme said. “You’re not getting ambushed with anything.”

Of course, there are limits to what a manager can map out. The Mets experienced that last week, when Nimmo and Canha were game-time decisions for several days in a row while on the COVID-19 injured list.

“If you want to hear God laugh, tell him about your plans,” Showalter said. “I’m looking forward to things kind of settling in at some point.”

Players say Showalter either catches up with them in the clubhouse after games, or plans will be communicated via messages to their phones each night that also include report times and other schedule notes for the next day’s game.

“I want them to know everything so they’re not wondering about it or reading something wondering if it’s completely right,” Showalter said.

It’s been much the same across town at Yankee Stadium, where manager Aaron Boone says the Bronx Bombers are setting their lineups further ahead than ever. New York started the season with five infielders for four spots — Anthony Rizzo, DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, Josh Donaldson and Isiah Kiner-Falefa — and Boone wants them to know their role for a given day before they show up to work.

“I do think they like that,” Boone said. “So far, we’ve been getting the lineup out to them before the end of the night for the next day, and we’ll try to do that as much as we can.”

It’s not just a matter of mental preparation, either. Guillorme has been a part-time player over five big league seasons, and he’s ironed out different programs for when he’s playing and when he’s not.

“My routine is going to be a lot more toned down if I know I’m playing or if I’m not. If I know I’m not playing, if I’m in the role that I am usually, I do a lot more stuff on the field before the game,” he said. “If that day I’m going to play, I tone it down. I go through a regular routine of just normal, because I don’t want to be tired by that time. So for me, when they give me a heads up, yes it does help me a lot.”

___

Follow Jake Seiner: https://twitter.com/Jake_Seiner

___

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Asante Prince, the founder of Ghana's Awatu Winton Water Polo Club, oversees a training session in ...
Associated Press

Ghana water polo grows as sport looks for more diversity

Back at the very beginning, right when the idea of water polo in Ghana started swimming into reality, Asante Prince got out a couple of balls and caps in front of a handful of curious kids. He decided to try a scrimmage, but he had no nets. So they put a soccer bench on each […]
1 day ago
FILE - Austria's Katharina Liensberger speeds down the course during the first run of an alpine ski...
Associated Press

Austrian ski team aims to rediscover its magic at worlds

VIENNA (AP) — Only one skier in the 24-member Austrian squad for the upcoming world championships has won on the Word Cup circuit this season. A star coach left the women’s team mid-January. And “crisis” has become a common word on the ski-mad nation’s sport pages. Has the once dominating “Wunderteam” from Austria lost its […]
1 day ago
FILE - Workers prepare to remove giant Olympic rings from the waterfront area at Odaiba Marine Park...
Associated Press

Tokyo Olympic bribery scandal rolls on; company apologizes

TOKYO (AP) — A Japanese company embroiled in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic corruption scandal said Thursday it would strengthen oversight to prevent further wrongdoing. Kadokawa “seriously betrayed public trust,” company president Takeshi Natsuno said. He bowed deeply with two other executives to show remorse in a news conference. Tsuguhiko Kadokawa, the son of the founder, […]
1 day ago
Atlanta Hawks guard Dejounte Murray (5) dunks over Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul during the first h...
Associated Press

Murray scores 21 points, Hawks roll past Suns 132-100

PHOENIX (AP) — Trae Young rose up for a 3-pointer in the second half that left his hands way too hard, hurtling toward the basket before slamming off the backboard and through the hoop. Atlanta’s star guard shrugged and ran back down the court with a sheepish grin. Things were going the Hawks way Wednesday […]
1 day ago
Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam, left, guards Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson, right, during ...
Associated Press

Markkanen, Conley power Jazz to 131-128 win over Raptors

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Lauri Markkanen had 28 points and 13 rebounds and Mike Conley added a three-point play and two clutch free throws in the closing minutes to lift the Utah Jazz to a 131-128 win over the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night. “Taking my time, having a little more patience, not just […]
1 day ago
Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) looks to pass while defended by Minnesota Timberwolv...
Associated Press

Russell, Edwards help Timberwolves beat Warriors in OT

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — D’Angelo Russell scored 14 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter, Anthony Edwards took over in overtime after Russell fouled out and the Minnesota Timberwolves outlasted the Golden State Warriors 119-114 on Wednesday night. Russell fouled out after two quick whistles in the first minute of overtime. That set the stage […]
1 day ago
MLB managers trying to work ahead with ever-evolving lineups