DENVER -- Rockies manager Jim Tracy said his decision Thursday to move center fielder Dexter Fowler to No. 8 in the batting order after hitting him leadoff for much of the season is designed with an eye toward returning him to the top spot.
The switch-hitting Fowler, who batted second, second and first in his last three games, went into Thursday night's game against the D-backs batting .244 with a .354 on-base percentage. The Rockies made him a leadoff man because of his speed, but he was 2-for-8 on steal attempts. Also his 55 strikeouts were tied for third-most in the National League. On the flip side, he was hitting .371 (13-for-35, five doubles) with runners in scoring position.
Some of the numbers may suggest a hitter better suited to bat in the bottom of the order, but Tracy said the move to eight should not be read as permanent.
Tracy said batting from the eight position will give Fowler a better opportunity to improve his swing, especially from the left side. His swing is often lengthy, and all but 10 of his strikeouts are from that side.
"We need to work on getting him in more of a direct path to the ball left-handed, similar to what we see with his swing right-handed," Tracy said. "So putting him where we are in the lineup, we are utilizing the fact of the great work he does for us defensively in center field. Hopefully we can get something accomplished there.
"I absolutely feel that in us doing what we're doing right now, we're hopefully creating a forum for him to work on some of the things that I just mentioned. If in fact he accomplishes some of those things, there'll be an opportunity to think of getting him back up to the top of the lineup for us and be even more of a damaging player up there than he has at times hitting there for us."
Seth Smith moved to the leadoff spot on Thursday.
Fowler doesn't believe the move alleviates pressure. Besides, it beats what happened at the end of May last year, when the Rockies sent him down to Triple-A Colorado Springs for 27 games.
"Not really," he said. "As long as I'm in the lineup and playing, I'm happy.
I feel comfortable at the plate. Dating back to [this time] last year, I didn't even feel comfortable at the plate. I feel comfortable at the plate right now -- I'm just not getting the results I want. A lot of it has to do with my swing and just being comfortable with my swing, a point we're still working on."