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With Alou at DH, Anderson plays left

With Alou at DH, Anderson plays left

NEW YORK -- Which player is assigned to which position is not always a matter of health, rest or who's hot and who's not. So it was on Sunday evening, when manager Willie Randolph filled out the lineup card for the Mets' Interleague game against the Yankees. With the designated-hitter rule in effect, Randolph had a choice of hitters to serve in the role. He chose Moises Alou.

It hardly came as a surprise; the manager had planned to use Alou as a DH in one of the three games scheduled for the weekend. Friday night's game was postponed, and Alou made his Yankee Stadium debut on Saturday as a left fielder. So although he isn't fond of the role -- he was a DH 23 times though Saturday -- Alou was the DH on Sunday night.

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The issue became who would play left filed with Alou otherwise occupied. Randolph opted for Marlon Anderson and not Endy Chavez, whose unofficial title with the Mets is No. 4 outfielder. Anderson was batting second against Chien-Ming Wang and starting in left for the third time this season. No big thing, but what led to Randolph's decision provides some insight into Randolph's thinking.

First, the manager consulted with Alou and learned that his veteran outfielder was quite comfortable with the DH assignment, mostly because his body was rather uncomfortable. Alou's right ankle ached -- it has since he stole home on May 6. His back ached -- it has from time to time for week. His forearms did, too -- that's a new malady.

So why not Chavez in left? He is a splendid defensive player, and an outfield of Chavez in left, Carlos Beltran in center and Ryan Church in right would constitute the best defensive alignment the Mets could use in any ballpark, and particularly in Yankee Stadium, where the remnants of the original Death Valley still challenge the best outfielders.

But Randolph chose Anderson, a sometimes awkward defensive payer no matter where assigned. The manager's rationale was this: "Marlon does a decent job in left field, but he's swinging the bat well lately, and we're not as a team -- not yet."

Anderson was all for the assignment. He enjoys his primary role as a pinch-hitter -- he has prospered on that role with the Mets until this year. But every reserve player needs an occasional day in the lineup.

Why not us a skilled left-handed hitter against a pitcher who earns his money in the bottom of the strike zone?

Chavez bats left-handed, too. But as Randolph said, "If we need defense late, we have Endy."

Without saying so, Randolph implemented the thinking of former Mets manager Davey Johnson, who lived by a "score first, defend later" philosophy. "You can't win if you don't score," Johnson used to say. "Get a lead, then protect it."

"I can't argue with that," Anderson said. Moreover, he is most comfortable in left field at this point in his career, though he is a natural second baseman.

"First base is cool," Anderson added. "Second base is tough if you don't it every day. But right now, left field is the easiest.

"I like it this way, and I like playing left at Yankee Stadium."

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

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