NEW YORK -- Still trying to find a long-term leadoff solution for his lineup, Mets manager Terry Collins on Thursday tried the one thing he has shied away from doing for the vast majority of his tenure in Flushing.
Collins slotted second baseman Daniel Murphy first in the lineup, shifting him up from his customary two-hole. What's more, with outfielders Juan Lagares and Eric Young Jr. both injured, Collins called this an experiment that could last.
"Why wouldn't you want your hottest hitter up there as many times as you can?" Collins said.
The logic is simple, even if Collins has avoided batting Murphy leadoff for most his first 3 1/2 years as manager. When the Mets were trying to identify their leadoff hitter this winter, general manager Sandy Alderson publicly criticized Murphy's on-base percentage, which has since increased from .319 in 2013 to .360 this year. Murphy's walk rate has spiked from 4.6 percent to 8.2 percent, and he has always been extremely aggressive -- for better and for worse -- on the basepaths.
Murphy is also white-hot at the plate overall, entering Thursday's play with a .305 average, including a .316 mark since May 3 and .389 since June 2.
Collins' main issue is that he has long considered Murphy an ideal No. 2 hitter, given the second baseman's left-handed swing and high contact rate. But with Young and Lagares injured, Collins had to find a leadoff solution.
Recently, he tried both Matt den Dekker and Ruben Tejada atop his lineups with mixed results. Young and Lagares also had their flaws there earlier this season. So if Murphy contributes, he could receive a long look at leadoff even after those two return from the disabled list.
"The idea is, you've got to try something," the manager said. "We've been trying each night to put together a lineup you think is going to score some runs."
Young, who is recovering from a strained right hamstring, went 1-for-4 in his first rehab appearance Thursday for Class A St. Lucie. Lagares is not as far along in his own rehab from a strained right intercostal muscle.