ATLANTA -- It wasn't until manager John Russell posted the lineup card on Monday that anyone knew for sure what batting order he intended to use this season. And as it turns out, there still isn't a real long-term answer just yet.
"It will change," Russell cautioned. "Whatever we feel that night that makes us a better club, that's what we are going to do."
On Monday, Russell used Freddy Sanchez in the second spot, preferring to drop Jack Wilson to hit No. 8 in the lineup. By doing so, the Pirates are able to move pieces in the heart of the order up a notch, putting Xavier Nady in the fifth hole and Ryan Doumit right behind him hitting sixth.
Sanchez hit primarily in the third spot last season, just as he has throughout most of his career. But by moving him one spot, Russell is able to put Jason Bay immediately ahead of Adam LaRoche.
"If you look at the lineup that we've got, it gives us some versatility in our lineup," Russell said. "It gives us some different looks in different spots. Looking at the guys that we have in the lineup tonight, it kind of fit that way."
By constructing the batting order the way he did on Monday, Russell was able to spread out the three left-handed bats (which includes the switch-hitting Doumit) in the lineup fairly evenly up and down, giving him the balanced attack that he coveted.
Russell also added that Wilson will not always be confined to the eighth spot in the order. Wilson has had success in adapting to the intricacies in hitting ahead of the pitcher, a spot in the batting order that can often be the most mentally challenging for a hitter. But Russell said he won't hesitate to also use Wilson in the No. 2 hole at times as well.
With Doumit's bat expected to be more potent than that of fellow catcher Ronny Paulino, it would seem plausible that Russell may bat Wilson higher in the lineup in games where Paulino is behind the plate.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.