PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Mike Devereaux has dropped down in the batting order, but he knows better than to assume that his days as a leadoff hitter are entirely behind him.
Manager John Oates has stated his preference. He wants Devereaux to bat in the fifth or sixth spot in the batting order to take advantage of his increasing run-production numbers.
Devereaux, who is 14-for-29 in his past eight games, has cast his vote. He would love to bat fifth on a regular basis and find out just what he can do in a run-production role.
It should be pretty simple then, but it's not.
"I'm assuming I'll bat in the fifth spot," Devereaux said. "That's where I've been all spring. But I'm preparing myself to bat in either position. I want to do what ever John Oates thinks is best for this team."
Oates isn't exactly saying what he thinks yet. He has been auditioning several candidates for the leadoff role. Outfielder Brady Anderson appears to be the front-runner, but no one is counting out promising Luis Mercedes. The only candidate to drop out of the running was Rule V draftee Darrell Sherman, who recently was sent back to the San Diego Padres after managing just two singles in 27 exhibition at-bats.
"I have two or three ideas of what we might do," Oates said, "and I would be comfortable with any of them."
Devereaux probably fits into one of the scenarios, perhaps batting in the leadoff role against left-handed pitching and dropping back to the fifth spot in the lineup when Anderson leads off against right-handers. If Anderson and Mercedes both make the club, Devereaux likely would get his wish and remain in the heart of the lineup full time.
"I'm not in a position to be choosy," Devereaux said. "It just depends on how it works out. I just want to be in there every day, no matter what."
Oates already has said that Devereaux will not have to share playing time with anyone, but he will not rule out the leadoff platoon possibility.
Devereaux is the only player on the roster who has proved he can produce in the leadoff role, so it seems unlikely that he'll get through the season without spending at least a few games at the top of the lineup.