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Batting ninth seems to suit Mets’ Amed Rosario

The shortstop’s numbers go up when he moves down in the batting order.

Mets shortstop Amed Rosario hits an RBI single

Mets shortstop Amed Rosario hits an RBI single against the Rockies during the ninth inning at Citi Field on Friday, May 4, 2018. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Amed Rosario’s demotion to the ninth spot in the Mets’ lineup was meant to jump-start the Mets’ offense, but the lineup shuffle has served as a means of kick-starting the Mets’ prized shortstop.

Entering Saturday night’s game against the Rockies at Citi Field, Rosario owned a .292/.313/.400 slash line in 19 games batting ninth. Compare that with his .087/.125/.087 line in seven games batting seventh, and he’s been a much more productive member of a suddenly anemic offense.

“He’s doing a good job of, especially in that hole, of doing what he needs to do with those pitches when it happens,” manager Mickey Callaway said before the Mets’ 2-0 loss, the third time they have been shut out in four games.

Callaway said the decision to move Rosario down was twofold. For one, it offered the 22-year-old a chance to bat with less pressure, easing the mental aspect of hitting. Secondly, Callaway expected Rosario to get better pitches to hit while batting in front of Michael Conforto, Asdrubal Cabrera and Brandon Nimmo, who have shared leadoff duties this season.

“You’re obviously going to get better pitches to hit because you’re hitting in front of somebody that can do some damage,” Callaway said. “Pitchers are obviously aware of who’s coming up after each hitter. You’re probably going to get a few better pitches to hit.”

Rosario, who went 1-for-3 with a single to leftfield in the bottom of the fifth inning Saturday night, bounced around last season, seeing at-bats in seven different positions on former manager Terry Collins’ lineup card. A majority of his time was spent hitting seventh, a spot in which he produced a .296/.305/.531 slash line in 21 games.

“It doesn’t matter where I am in the lineup,” Rosario said through a translator. “In each spot in the lineup, I’m always aggressive.”

Rosario is highly regarded defensively, but his bat has yet to catch up to his glove in his 75-game major-league career. Touted as a “top-of-the-order hitter with excellent contact skills” by Baseball America, Rosario has yet to make that kind of impression on the Mets.

He walked only three times in 170 plate appearances last season, which could mean he was overeager and pressing at the plate. But hitting ninth could allow Rosario more command of the strike zone while also giving him the ability to be more aggressive on pitches in the zone. Still, Rosario doesn’t have an extra-base hit in his last 11 games.

He said he’s noticed an uptick in hittable pitches out of the ninth spot.

“Definitely, yeah,” he said. “Pitchers, they focus themselves to throw more strikes to me.”

Said Callaway, “You can get all the great pitches in the world to hit, but if you don’t hit them, it doesn’t do any good.”

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