Notes: Pierre fine with leadoff choice
Houlton, Stults hoping to open eyes; La Roche is top prospect
VERO BEACH, Fla. -- When Juan Pierre took the Dodgers' $44 million contract, he knew they already had a leadoff hitter in Rafael Furcal, so he wasn't surprised Thursday when manager Grady Little announced that Furcal would remain atop the batting order, followed by Pierre."I've done nothing to warrant that I have to bat leadoff," said Pierre. "I'm not caught up on that. I'm in the lineup. If I wasn't in the lineup, we'd be having more of a discussion. "There are bigger things to worry about than that. Sometimes you do things for the team, like Nomar [Garciaparra] last year playing first base. I'm not in the game to have prestige. It's not an ego thing. Whatever works, works." Right there Pierre might have given a better explanation for Little's decision than did Little. With Furcal leading off last year, the offense worked, even with a lack of power. Furcal hit .300 with 113 runs scored and 37 stolen bases last season, his first after signing a three-year, $39 million contract with the Dodgers. Pierre, who signed a five-year contract in December, hit .292 with 87 runs scored and 58 stolen bases as the leadoff hitter for the last-place Chicago Cubs last year. Of course, for players who rely on speed and bat control for their offensive game, there is a cachet with being a leadoff hitter that even Pierre admits. "As a leadoff hitter, Lou Brock told me you can change the complexion of the game right off the bat," he said. "I take pride in that. That's the beauty of it." Little was vague with his reasoning for choosing Furcal ahead of Pierre, but said he would not ask Pierre to change his approach and was intrigued with the idea of a pair of proven leadoff hitters atop his order. Several players expressed surprise with the decision, but Furcal seemed pleased. "If we win, there's no problem where I hit," said Furcal. "We have one of the best combinations in baseball." Furcal, a switch-hitter, has more power than Pierre and bunts less frequently. Pierre, a left-handed hitter, is more of a slap hitter and a more proficient basestealer, an aspect of his game that might be hampered with Furcal on base ahead of him. The last time Pierre spent any considerable time batting second was 2004, when he hit .336 in 592 at-bats leading off and .263 in 80 at-bats batting second. One year earlier, he hit .346 in 52 at-bats batting second and .302 in 616 at-bats leading off.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.