Paulino gets first start at cleanup

Paulino gets first start at cleanup

DETROIT -- At least for one game, the Mets found a new cleanup hitter against left-handed pitching.

Citing his desire not to tinker with Jason Bay, Mets manager Terry Collins shifted catcher Ronny Paulino to the fourth spot for Wednesday's game against the Tigers. It marked the first time a Mets catcher has started in the cleanup spot since Mike Piazza on Oct. 2, 2005, his final game with the team.

Bay, who had been batting fourth against left-handers for the past two weeks, hit fifth Wednesday against Tigers lefty Phil Coke.

Production against left-handers, more than anything, was the reason why the Mets acquired Paulino for $1.3 million last offseason. And he has not disappointed, batting .364 with a .404 on-base percentage in 44 at-bats against lefties this season.

"That's pretty good," Collins said. "I hope it instills a little energy into Ronny that, 'Hey look, we want you to produce some runs. Get out there and take those good swings that you've been doing, because there's going to be guys on base.'"

In that sense, the move was designed to jump-start an offense that entered Wednesday's play hitting 24 points and slugging 38 points lower against left-handed pitching.