NEW YORK (AP) — Ben Rice was moved into the New York Yankees’ leadoff spot 15 games into his big league career for Thursday’s game against the Cincinnati Reds and Anthony Volpe was dropped to sixth in the batting order.

A 25-year-old who made his big league debut on June 18, Rice entered with a .270 average, three doubles and four RBIs.

Volpe was in an 0-for-18 slide before his two-run double in the seventh inning in Wednesday night’s 3-2 loss. He was hitting .206 with four walks since May 30, dropping his season average from .288 to .256 and leaving fewer opportunities for Juan Soto and Aaron Judge to drive in runs.

“It’s just a critical spot right now ahead of what Juan and what Aaron are doing there that want to try and just in a lot of ways kind of get the hottest guy that’s getting on base in front of them and taking advantage of that,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.

New York had lost 12 of its past 16 games and is 0-5-1 in its past six series.

Rice batted leadoff in 13 games this year for Double-A Somerset, the last on May 28. He hit .245 (13 for 53) with five solo homers, six walks and 17 strikeouts.

“The approach is always the same, so it doesn’t really affect anything,” Rice said.

Volpe hit leadoff in 76 of the first 88 games. He replaced Gleyber Torres atop the order on April 10.

“I just wanted to shake it up a little bit and give Volpe a blow from that spot. Doesn’t mean (he) won’t go back in there,” Boone said. “Just trying to optimize that spot and getting guys on base in front of the big boys.”

Rice was hitting .360 (9 for 25) with three doubles and four RBIs against right-handers and .083 (1 for 12) with no RBIs against left-handers. He began the season at Double-A, was promoted to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on June 5 and then to the Yankees two weeks later after Anthony Rizzo broke a forearm.

Volpe batted .206 with 21 homers and 60 RBIs as a rookie last year. While his average has increased this season, his home runs have dropped to six. Volpe’s ground ball rate has risen to 51.8% from 41.% and his fly ball rate has fallen to 25.9% from 37.1%. His fly ball rate was 52.5% at Scranton in 2022.

“He clearly made some swing adjustments and changes, alterations in the offseason,” Boone said. “We’re talking about a 22-year-old guy that’s adjusting, growing, learning, and I feel like this is kind of all part of the process of him getting to be a more complete product.”

New York also has struggled at the cleanup spot, beginning the day with a .204 average (29th), .262 on-base percentage (30th) and .584 OPS (30th). Alex Verdugo, in the No. 4 hole Thursday, was in a 8-for-59 slide (.136) over his previous 15 games.

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