Manager John Russell moved center fielder Nate McLouth from his normal spot in the three-hole to the leadoff position. The Pirates normally look to Freddy Sanchez to fulfill the leadoff role and spark the offense from the start, but Sanchez was left out of the lineup on Monday because of pain in his right shoulder.
While Sanchez will get the day to rest, Russell said Monday he didn't think the shoulder problem is a cause for concern.
"I think [Sanchez] could play if he had to," Russell said. "The last few days he's made some long throws and got a little achy yesterday. I don't see any reason why he wouldn't be able to play tomorrow."
McLouth has given the Bucs a heavy dose of offensive production recently, and he looked to carry it into the lineup's top spot on Monday. He has delivered three multi-hit games in his last five games and is batting .333 during that span.
Russell said the move was not based solely on Sanchez's injury or McLouth's recent numbers.
"It's a combination. I'm not going to say we're moving [McLouth] out of the three-hole," he said. "Certain days the way our lineup looks, like today, he fits better in the lead. We know he can lead off, and he's had a lot of success lately. When I sit down and look at the lineup, see how it best looks, the balance of it, today, right or wrong, it looked better to have him lead off."
Chris Gomez filled in for Sanchez at second base, and Monday also marked the return of third baseman Andy LaRoche to the Pittsburgh lineup. The Pirates acquired LaRoche from the Dodgers at the July 31 Trade Deadline, but he injured his right thumb during his last at-bat on Aug. 4. The injury kept him out of the starting lineup for the past five games.
LaRoche threw on Monday morning, prior to the matchup against the Mets, and though he still felt some pain, he didn't think it was enough to keep him off the field.
"He's been really itchy to get back in there," Russell said. "The last thing was to make sure he was swinging a lot, looks fine hitting. Just being able to grip the ball to where he can throw it across the field. He went out early and did that. He said he felt it but he was good enough to be able to play."
Samantha Newman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.