"You can't have a guy that punches out 175 or 200 times there. That's not what the fourth hitter is all about," Presley said. "It needs to be one of your top three hitters as far as [productive at-bats]."

Ideally, the Orioles would like to have Roberts batting leadoff, Markakis second, Jones third, Wieters fifth and J.J. Hardy sixth. But without the prototypical basher in the middle, that's not possible.

"You've got to protect that fourth guy, and that fourth guy has got to protect that third guy," Presley said. "If we put Jones in there, that's pretty good protection for Markakis. But if you put Jones at third and move Markakis to second, you still protect Nick, but now you've got to protect Jones."

The most common lineup to begin the season likely will have the starting left fielder for a given game — either Nolan Reimold or Endy Chavez — leading off, with Hardy or maybe Johnson batting second. Markakis likely will hit third, Jones fourth and Wieters fifth.

Second baseman Robert Andino will likely bat ninth most days, and a mix of Hardy, Reynolds, Chris Davis and Wilson Betemit will bat between sixth and eighth.

Like most players, Jones and Wieters said they are not concerned with where they are hitting in the order.

"Cleanup hitter is just one position that you know if you get an AB in the first inning, you've got somebody on base and maybe a chance to drive in a run then," said Wieters, who has hit .150 with a .203 on-base percentage and a .250 slugging percentage in 60 at-bats at cleanup. "But other than that, you never really know how the lineup is going to shake out and how people are going to get on base. And so I think whoever hits cleanup, hits cleanup. And whoever hits fifth, hits fifth. I don't think it really makes a difference."

Jones, who has an impressive slash line of .345/.391/.552 in just 58 at-bats hitting cleanup, may be a better fit batting third or fifth. He's likely to be the primary Orioles cleanup hitter in 2012, but says all he wants is a chance to drive in runs.

"As long as people are on base, you know my stance: People on base, you got Jones happy," he said. "I like RBIs. RBIs are what this game is about. You've got to score runs. And for some reason, I like to be in the situation where a man's on base and the pressure is on the pitcher or myself to get that man in. Someone's got to win that battle, and I like that competition."

If he had to choose, Markakis said he would pick Wieters to bat behind him, simply because Wieters can hit right-handed or left-handed, and that could yield better pitches for Markakis.

"Nothing against Jonesy, he's done great in there, but I think Wieters would be a good cleanup hitter," Markakis said. "Who doesn't want a switch-hitting guy hitting behind him? It makes it tougher on the opposing team and the opposing manager to make a decision."

Ultimately, Showalter doesn't have a preference on which one of his hitters he'd like to have seize the cleanup role for now or in the future. He would, however, prefer having one consistent, powerful and disciplined hitter in that spot — and thinks that could happen this year.

"It could evolve into that. It could easily evolve into that," Showalter said. "It's kind of up to the players and how they perform, too."

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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Orioles who have at least 50 at-bats at the cleanup spot in their careers



Nick Johnson, 721 ABs, 28 HR, 121 RBIs, .269/.414/.474

Mark Reynolds, 588 ABs, 42 HR, 97 RBIs, .241/.343/.498