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Hardy, Hart swap spots in lineup

Hardy, Hart swap spots in lineup

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Brewers manager Ken Macha followed through with his plans to flip shortstop J.J. Hardy and Corey Hart in the batting order when he wrote out his first official lineup on Opening Day.

Hart was batting second, and Hardy was hitting fifth. Both players said they liked the move.

"I like hitting in front of these guys," said Hart, referring to No. 3 hitter Ryan Braun and cleanup man Prince Fielder, and most players would like hitting there. Braun and Fielder have combined to hit 155 home runs over the last two seasons, and hitting ahead of them means a more steady diet of fastballs from pitchers unwilling to surrender a walk.

"I think it will take some of the pressure off of me," Hart said. "I out-think myself sometimes."

He also is a fastball hitter. Hardy didn't mind the fact that hitting in the five-hole could mean more breaking balls are thrown his way.

"That bothers me zero," Hardy said. "I think that's another thing Macha saw, that breaking balls don't bother me as much. Corey likes fastballs and he should get more fastballs thrown his way."

Hardy said he had spoken privately with Hart and Braun about the switch. Everybody seemed to like it.

"There are things about it that make a lot of sense," Hardy said. "Corey hits a ton of doubles. Corey steals a ton of bases. So there are going to be a lot of opportunities for Braun and Prince to have RBI opportunities, and those times where there is an open base and teams have to decide whether to pitch to either of those guys or just walk them.

"For me, I'm going to have more RBI opportunities, which I like. As long as I can stay under control and keep the same approach that I've had in my other seasons, I think we'll be good."

Hardy missed a slew of RBI opportunities in Tuesday's 10-6, season-opening loss. He struck out with runners at second and third base in the first inning, grounded out with a runner at second base in both the third inning and the seventh (though both times he advanced the runner to third) and grounded into 6-4-3 double plays in both the fourth inning and the ninth.

Hardy has hit fifth before -- entering the year he was 17-for-49 in that spot, a .347 average -- but for Hart the two-hole is new. Hart said he had batted everywhere in the order during his pro career but second and ninth before this year, but Macha installed him in the two-hole late in Spring Training.

Hart slumped in that spot, going 1-for-17 in five starts in the two-hole from March 30 through the end of the exhibition season. But that's too small a sample to draw any conclusions, according to the manager.

"One of the reasons I put him up there is Dale [hitting coach Dale Sveum] told me that a couple of years ago they led [Hart] off, and he took off," Macha said. "I want to take advantage of his speed. ... I'm hoping Corey gets some more fastballs, but he's got to be disciplined enough to not swing at them sliders."

It's still an experiment.

"If anything does change, those guys would probably be the guys that flip," Macha said.

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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