Lineup shuffle brings positive results

Lineup shuffle brings positive results

CINCINNATI -- When Carlos Lee was tabbed to hit fifth in Spring Training, he wasn't timid while voicing his displeasure to his manager about being dropped one spot in the order.

Lee eventually moved back to the cleanup spot, where he has hit most of his career and where he's the most comfortable. But the 3-4-5 combination of Lance Berkman, Lee and Miguel Tejada lasted only 2 1/2 weeks into the regular season before manager Cecil Cooper decided to shake things up. That sometimes happens when a team starts a season 6-10.

Cooper moved Tejada to the three-hole, while Berkman slid down one spot to cleanup. Lee assumed Tejada's old spot as the five hitter.

It's hard to argue with the results. Not only did the Astros win three of four as soon as the change was made, but the individual results are staggering. Heading into Wednesday's opener in Cincinnati, Tejada hit .579 (11-for-19) as the three hitter, with three doubles, one homer, seven RBIs and six runs scored.

Berkman hit .333 (4-for-12) with a triple, a home run, five RBIs and five walks. Lee was the only one who got off to a rocky start, hitting .231 (3-for-13) with a double and two RBIs. He also walked three times, which he views as a somewhat unfortunate new part of his game now that he's down further in the order.

Still, Lee's not complaining. He hasn't said a word about it to his manager, and he's pleased that the new formula has produced wins.

"It's working," Lee said. "I'll try to adjust to it now. Every time you bat, there's going to be an opportunity there. I have to really concentrate and take my walks. Before, I had one walk in 70 at-bats. Now I've got four in the last three games. [The pitches are] not even close. I like to swing."

Cooper said he talked about the new plan with all three sluggers during the Astros' plane ride home from Philadelphia last week.

"I got all positive responses," Cooper said. "With [Lee], I know it's a big issue. I said, 'Sleep on it, think about it.' The next day he just starting buying into it. He wants to win, too."

Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.