MINNEAPOLIS -- As expected, Aramis Ramirez was back in the Brewers' lineup on Wednesday night against the Twins. But he found himself in an unfamiliar spot, both in the lineup and in the batting order.
A third baseman who has batted cleanup most of his career, Ramirez was Milwaukee's designated hitter and batted fifth against the Twins. It was the first time since he joined the Brewers in 2012 that he had started anywhere but third or fourth in the order.
Ramirez had been out since May 10 with a strained left hamstring. In his absence, the Brewers became one of the hottest-hitting teams in the Major Leagues, with some players thriving outside of their usual spots in the order.
For example, Ryan Braun shifted to the two-hole, then went 15-for-36 (.417) with two home runs, nine runs scored and nine RBIs over his next nine games. Jean Segura moved into the leadoff spot and was 18-for-54 (.333) with 12 runs scored in his next 12 games. And after moving into the cleanup spot, Carlos Gomez went 15-for-42 (.357) with a home run and nine RBIs in his next 11 games.
That productivity highlights an unusual advantage for Brewers manager Ron Roenicke. Namely, he has a bunch of players who can hit well wherever they bat in the order.
"Like Khris Davis right now, I could really probably slot him anywhere. Gomez I could slot anywhere. [Jonathan Lucroy] I could slot anywhere. [Braun] I could probably slot anywhere," Roenicke said. "It's always nice when you have a lot of guys you feel like could hit [anywhere], especially when you're talking about third-fourth-fifth.
"First and second … you kind of limit it to more guys who are your basestealers and guys who can get on base. I think when you talk about that middle of the order, when you have a lot of guys who can hit there, you know you're really good."
But ability isn't the only ingredient needed for a successful team. It especially helps when a five-time All-Star and former MVP buys in completely, and Braun said the switch did not bother him because it was good for him, too.
"My approach doesn't really change at all; I think, especially being in an American League ballpark, your nine hitter is essentially another leadoff guy," Braun said. "But as far as hitting second, I think the more at-bats you get the best hitters, the better off you'll be over the course of the season. I think moving up a spot, Lucroy three, Gomez four, I think it gives all of us 15 or 16 extra at-bats over the course of the season. The more at-bats we get, the more wins we should get."
As for the rest of the order, Roenicke said in an ideal world Gomez would bat first -- adding that "he creates a lot of problems when he's leading off" -- Segura or Lucroy would bat second, Braun third and Ramirez fourth. And while Roenicke appreciates the flexibility, he would like to get a bit closer to that ideal world of a set lineup one through eight.
"I would rather have it the same," Roenicke said, "but I don't know how to do that yet."
Patrick Donnelly is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less