LAS VEGAS (AP) — Here along the Strip, the Boston Red Sox are placing their bets on a new leadoff man.
AL MVP Mookie Betts will hit second next year, a season after he led the big leagues in batting average and slugging percentage from the top spot.
Andrew Benintendi will move up a slot and hit first for the majors' highest-scoring team, manager Alex Cora said Tuesday at the winter meetings.
"I think we're going to maximize Mookie in a different spot. Flip-flop them, Beni leading off and Mookie hitting second. Talked to him, it makes sense," Cora said.
"You guys saw what happened towards the end of the season, he became very passive again," he said. "And it's not that I don't like that, I know what type of hitter he is. But I think doing that, Beni can be aggressive. ... He's a good runner. He gets on base, and I put it this way to Mookie. And I know Beni's OK with it. But if you play 162 games, you're going to come up 162 at-bats with nobody on."
Betts topped the majors in batting (.346) and slugging percentage (.640) and was second in on-base average (.438) for the 108-win Red Sox. He also had 84 extra-base hits, including 32 home runs, and stole 30 bases.
"Last year, what I wanted from him in the leadoff spot, we accomplished. It's a different season and we have to make adjustments, and that's where we're going to go," Cora said.
Benintendi hit .290 with 16 homers, 87 RBIs and a .366 on-base average.
Cora actually is hoping someone else bats leadoff when the Red Sox open next season on March 28 at Seattle — that would be Dustin Pedroia.
The longtime Red Sox star was limited to only three games last season because of lingering knee problems. As a tribute, Cora would love to put Pedroia in the top spot, where he's occasionally hit over the years, on that first day against the Mariners.
The 35-year-old Pedroia has been working out, trying to get back on the field.
"I'm looking forward for him to lead off that game. That's the only time. I told the guys, if Pedey is going to play, if he's ready for opening day, he'll lead off that day. He deserves that," Cora said.
"He's a huge part of this organization. What he did last year, think about it, man, like he didn't play, but he was there. He was there for them the whole time. And there were a lot of conversations in the cage, in the dugout, in the clubhouse, that he was a part of it," he said.