ST. LOUIS -- For years at Busch Stadium, former Cardinals manager Tony La Russa made lineup construction an art form, unafraid to do unorthodox things with his starting nine.
Among his most frequent and notorious experiments was batting his pitchers eighth. Mets manager Terry Collins adopted that philosophy Monday night at La Russa's old stomping grounds, hitting a pitcher eighth for the first time in franchise history.
"We just thought today was a good day to try it," Collins said of an experiment that he first conducted this spring.
His reasoning was twofold. First, Monday's starting pitcher, Jacob deGrom, is the staff's best hitter; Collins feels comfortable batting deGrom -- and maybe Jon Niese -- eighth, but no one else on his staff.
Secondly, Collins told Curtis Granderson over the weekend that he would like to bat him leadoff somewhat consistently, at least for now. That meant that if he wanted to insert Eric Young Jr. into the lineup Monday in his first game back from the disabled list, he would need to do it low in the order. Ninth seemed natural.
"You're looking at three very good hitters at 2-3-4 who can hopefully come up with more runners on," Collins said.
For the Mets, the risk is that deGrom finds himself batting in less-than-ideal situations. But Collins is willing to accept that, knowing that if deGrom bats three or four times in a game, "we're winning."
"Surely, there's a possibility that the pitcher's going to come up today with the bases loaded, hitting in the eighth spot," Collins said. "But you know what? It's not a perfect world. You do the best you can at the beginning of the game, because you don't have a crystal ball that's going to tell you what's going to happen during the game. We just thought it was a good day to try it, and we'll see if it works."
While part of Collins' job revolves around the strategy of the game, another part deals with its psychology. To that end, the manager pulled Young aside prior to Monday's game to explain why he was batting ninth instead of eighth.
"I'm all for it," Young said. "When I got in this morning, I didn't even know if I was going to be in there or not. I'm just happy to see my name in there. It will be interesting to see how it works out."