PITTSBURGH -- Staying with a look he hadn't begun to explore until the tail end of the preseason schedule, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle went with Garrett Jones in the two-hole in Monday's Opening Day lineup.
Jones' power potential -- 27 homers and 86 RBIs last season -- might suggest a better fit deeper in the lineup. However, for Hurdle, it came down to OPS: Jones' .888 against right-handers last season promoted him in the batting order -- and also over Travis Snider, who'd gone through Spring Training believing he'd get first call in right field against right-handed pitching.
"For me, it's either second or sixth for Jones," Hurdle said. "Against a right-hander [the Cubs' Jeff Samardzija], it's hard for me to hit a guy with that OPS sixth. That's too deep, might miss some opportunities. I'm trying to find the best combination to get men on base in front of Andrew [McCutchen, the No. 3 hitter], and stretch out the lineup, top to bottom."
Snider was OK with the move after having the reasoning behind it explained to him by Hurdle, who said, "He's going to play. [Jose] Tabata will play. Everybody will contribute. I felt this is our best offensive lineup right now."
The guy who actually bumped Snider was not Jones -- who normally would have played first base -- but the right-handed-hitting Gaby Sanchez, whose .302-4-11 preseason production was hard to overlook.
"I crunched numbers," Hurdle said, "and in looking at the spring Gaby Sanchez had, I'm not smart enough to decide he doesn't need to play right now."
In Monday's 3-1 loss to the Cubs, Jones went 0-for-3 against Samardzija and struck out against righty reliever Carlos Marmol. Facing Samardzija, Sanchez went 0-for-3 and drew a walk from Marmol. Pinch-hitting for Jared Hughes in the eighth, Snider struck out against Samardzija.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.