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Notes: Outfield rotation in flux

Notes: Outfield rotation in flux

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HOUSTON -- Brewers manager Ned Yost said he would continue to "play the hot hand" with six outfielders for three spots, but conceded Tuesday that it's not an ideal way to get anyone hot in the first place.

"It's hard to get them settled," Yost said. "It's hard to get them on a roll. It's really unfair to put them in and, in essence, say, 'OK, if you get two hits, you can play again tomorrow.'

"But that's where we're at right now, because we're struggling offensively as a team. The only places we can mix and match is in the outfield."

Unfortunately, Yost's job will be a bit easier for the next few days. Left fielder Gabe Gross, arguably the team's hottest hitter, left Tuesday's game in the seventh inning after pulling up on an RBI double with an injured left hamstring. Yost said it was a Grade 1 strain, and expects Gross to miss at least 3-5 days.

Tuesday's starting outfield against Astros right-hander Roy Oswalt was left fielder Gross, center fielder Brady Clark and right fielder Corey Hart. Gross, Hart, Laynce Nix and Kevin Mench have seen their time increase of late as the Brewers take stock for 2007, though Nix has been limited by a left toe injury that Yost revealed Tuesday. More established players, such as Clark and Geoff Jenkins, have seen their opportunities diminished.

Of those six players, only Gross was hitting better than .222 in August entering play on Tuesday. Gross was hitting .309 this month, followed by Mench (.222), Nix (.217 in six Major League games), Hart (.214), Jenkins (.209) and Clark (.175).

Gross has faced uncertainty in playing time all season, because he has served mostly off Yost's bench. It's a challenge, he admitted, but one young players simply have to deal with.

"Especially at the stage where Corey and Laynce and I am," Gross said. "Early in your career, you're trying to establish yourself as an everyday player and you're not guaranteed the next year. You're always, essentially, playing for your living.

"There's a lot of uncertainty that goes into that. Once you learn to play with that, the rest of it comes together. I'm not saying that thinking about next year never comes up for me, but at the same time, that's going to handicap you, so you just have to forget it."

Assuming Gross and Nix return at full strength in the coming days, Yost does not plan any changes to his outfield rotation anytime soon.

"I'm just trying to find ways to make us better, that's all," Yost said. "I'm trying to look into the here and now; I'm looking into tomorrow. We're trying to win ballgames today, as many as we can. I think it is [possible]."

Ouch: Nix has made six starts in center field since a promotion from Triple-A Nashville on Aug. 19, but he started just one of the team's last four games. He has been experiencing painful "turf toe" at the base of his left big toe.

"I'm trying to [get through the season]," Nix said. "I'm battling it. I've been playing with it for the last couple of months. It's an injury I had a couple of years ago, and I did something earlier this summer that triggered it again."

Miller in the mix: Veteran catcher Damian Miller, sidelined since Thursday by a concussion, participated in a full workout on Tuesday and the odds are "really good" that he'll return to the lineup on Wednesday night, Yost said.

Miller suffered the concussion when a foul ball hit his catcher's mask in Thursday's win over the Rockies at Miller Park. It was the second concussion for Miller this season and his career.

Miller was put through a battery of tests over the weekend in Florida to test his memory and awareness. Tuesday marked his first physical activity, and Yost was taking a cautious approach.

"[After] not hitting for four or five days, I want him to take some batting practice, I want him to hit in the cage, to get in a regular routine," Yost said. "I'll catch him [on Wednesday]."

Getting closer: Reliever Matt Wise became eligible to return from the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday, but the team will wait until rosters expand on Friday to make a decision. Wise has been sidelined by an inflamed nerve in his surgically repaired right elbow and planned to test the joint in a bullpen session on Wednesday.

"We will see," Wise said. "Tomorrow's a big day. Keep your fingers crossed."

On deck: Right-hander Dave Bush, winless in his last two road starts, will take the mound on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. CT against Astros left-hander Andy Pettitte.

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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