Davey Martinez penciled Andrew Stevenson in as his leadoff hitter in Wednesday night’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies, hoping the left-handed hitting outfielder, who’s hit fastballs well (.342 AVG) in his career, could provide a spark against Philly righty Zack Wheeler (who’s thrown 63.1% fastballs this season acc. to Fangraphs, 62.9% between his 4-seam and sinker according to Baseball Savant).
Martinez said he wanted to have somebody up top to get on base in front of his No. 2 hitter, Trea Turner, and No. 3 hitter, Juan Soto.
“[Stevenson] hits the fastball really well. This guy [Wheeler] is a 70% fastball thrower, throws his fastball early in the count a lot, so we wanted to get Stevie up there, and get him in the lineup today.”
It was just the 11th start of the season for Stevenson, the 26-year-old, 2015 2nd Round pick, who’s appeared in 28 games overall this season after earning a spot on the roster with his play late last season and again this spring.
In limited action over the last three seasons, Stevenson’s put up a combined .306/.393/.496 line in 73 games and 140 PAs in the majors.
He talked this past December, in an MLB Network Radio interview, about his approach at the plate in the last few seasons, as he’s played his way onto the big league roster.
“Trying to stay more to the middle of the field if not err to the left side and maybe more so just being as relaxed as possible,” Stevenson said, in discussing the keys to his success.
“I think that’s what’s kind of helped me over the past few years.
“Your first few years you get up there and you want to do something every at bat so you’re trying a little bit harder than probably you should be, and then as the years are going on, you kind of get a little bit older, start to relax a little bit more, and I think that’s been the biggest thing, just being able to relax in the box and have a little fun with it.”
His manager said on Wednesday that the run of success for Stevenson has also resulted in a more confident outfielder.
“He’s definitely more confident,” Martinez told reporters in his pregame Zoom call.
“When he gets a chance to play, he’s playing with a sense of energy, which is always good, you want that — especially when you’re a role player. You put these [guys] in, and like I said, he’s the kind of guy that could jumpstart our day today. So, but he’s been doing great. He works diligently, especially on his defense and his baserunning, which I talked a lot about with him — he’ll have opportunities to pinch run as well. So, you’ll see him working on his baserunning, working on his defense, all three outfield positions, and being aggressive. The biggest thing with him is he’s a fastball hitter, and we always talk to him a lot, ‘Hey, if you get a guy who’s throwing fastballs, and you think you can hit it, swing at it, because you’re more than likely going to hit it and hit it hard.’ So want him to be ready for the fastball.”
As a pinch hitter this season, Stevenson is 3 for 9 with a home run and two walks, and four Ks in 11 PAs, leaving him with a .382/.446/.828 career line in pinch hit appearances, with a total of three doubles, a triple, and two home runs in 89 career pinch hit appearances. He’s also, with the work he’s done, apparently improved as a baserunner too in his manager’s eyes.
“He’s definitely better. A little bit more aggressive. He’s paying attention to a lot of different details,” Martinez said, “so like I said, we get into a situation where we need someone to run the bases we know that he can do it.”
Stevenson went 1 for 4 in the 5-2 loss to Philadelphia, bunting for a hit in the fifth, one out after starter Jon Lester singled his way on. Turner and Soto got the at bats with runners in scoring position Martinez was looking for that inning, but both struck out.