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Yost mulling opening lineup decisions

Yost mulling opening lineup decisions

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MESA, Ariz. -- The pitching and positional decisions have all been made. The starting rotation is set for the first few weeks of the season. The bullpen roles are loosely defined.

But with a handful of days remaining before the Brewers' season opener in Chicago, manager Ned Yost said he still hadn't settled on a starting lineup.

Five of the spots are filled, but four remain muddled. Yost will chose between shortstop J.J. Hardy and his center field fill-in for suspended starter Mike Cameron for the No. 2 hole, and whoever doesn't bat second will hit seventh. The Nos. 5 and 6 spots also are up for grabs between third baseman Bill Hall, who hit there for Thursday's Arizona finale against the Cubs, and right fielder Corey Hart.

The other spots are set: Second baseman Rickie Weeks will lead off, first baseman Prince Fielder will hit third and left fielder Ryan Braun fourth. Opening Day starter Ben Sheets will hit in the eight-hole in front of catcher Jason Kendall.

Yost had been mulling Kendall hitting ninth since the beginning of spring. He said Thursday he's committed to it.

"It worked out perfect for us a lot more times than it hasn't," Yost said.

That two-hole might also be set had Hardy not fallen ill last week. He missed more than a week with a bacterial infection, but finally played in a Cactus League game Thursday. Now it appears Yost is leaning toward Tony Gwynn, Jr. there on Opening Day. Yost also said righty-hitting Gabe Kapler had shown enough in Spring Training to start in center field when the Brewers face a left-handed pitcher.

"I think originally what I planned to do was hit J.J. in the two, but when J.J. got sick, that might have altered my plan a little bit," Yost said. "I could still switch it around, but Tony is doing OK there."

Similarly, it seems Yost is leaning toward Hall hitting fifth and Hart sixth. Hall entered play Thursday batting .278 in Spring Training games and Hart was hitting only .238, with 24 strikeouts in 63 at-bats.

Hitting coach Jim Skaalen admitted he had his own opinions, but he declined to share them.

"We talk about it," Skaalen said. "I expect that it's going to fluctuate throughout the year. Ned is really good at that, looking at who's hot and who's not and getting the hot guys to the top of the lineup."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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