CHICAGO -- Though John Russell put Doug Mientkiewicz in the lineup at third base for the third straight day, the Pittsburgh manager maintains that he is not yet looking at a potential Mientkiewicz/Jose Bautista platoon playing out in the near future.
Downplaying the lefty-righty platoon possibility, Russell said that his decision to start the left-handed-hitting Mientkiewicz again on Saturday was designed more to give Bautista a few extra days to focus on his approach at the plate and his swing.
"Jose has been working awfully hard and got into a little bit of a rut," Russell said. "I don't know if you can say it's a platoon. We're just trying to get Jose back on track. He's played good defense for us, but with his bat, sometimes it's good to take a couple of days and get it straightened out a little bit."
Since May 4, Bautista, who bats right-handed, has just six hits in his last 29 at-bats. He also has nine strikeouts in that span.
However, while the intention may have initially been to give Bautista extra rest, Russell did admit that the more he sees Mientkiewicz play, the more he likes having him out there on the field. As a result, Russell appears to at least be considering a scenario in which Mientkiewicz would see more playing time.
Mientkiewicz, who has gone 4-for-7 in the last two games, with two RBIs and four runs scored, has also shown that his defensive play at the hot corner can rival that of Bautista's.
"The other day, I thought it would be a nice day for Doug to start and he did a nice job. He gives you that flexibility," Russell said. "Doug's been playing very well, so we'll see how it goes the next few days. But we really like what Doug is doing."
Both infielders' career numbers would seem to favor a platoon consideration. Bautista has hit right-handed pitching at a .229 mark in his career (.204 this season), while Mientkiewicz has a .271 lifetime average off right-handers.
The disparity is similar from the other side of the plate as well. Mientkiewicz's .100 average against southpaws this season is easily surpassed by Bautista's .294 mark.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.