Millar to go fourth as O's cleanup man

The Baltimore Sun

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The Orioles' season opener against the Tampa Bay Rays is still 10 days away, but the team's lineup for that game is coming into focus.

Orioles manager Dave Trembley said yesterday that first baseman Kevin Millar will likely be his cleanup batter, hitting behind Nick Markakis and ahead of designated hitter Aubrey Huff. Barring any trades, Brian Roberts is expected to hit leadoff and Melvin Mora will be in the No. 2 hole.

"If I had to write out the lineup tomorrow, Millar would be the cleanup hitter to start the season," Trembley said. "That doesn't mean he'll stay there, but to start the season, that's what I'll probably do. I think he sees a lot of pitches. I think he always comes up with one very good at-bat during the game. He's a good two-strike hitter and he's a good two-out RBI guy. I'm going to sandwich him between two left-handed hitters."

Trembley hasn't committed to the rest of his lineup, but the most likely scenario is catcher Ramon Hernandez hitting sixth, followed by Luke Scott, Adam Jones and either Luis Hernandez or Brandon Fahey.

"The guy I want to protect is Jones," Trembley said. "I could see Jones hitting up in the order against left-handed pitching and maybe down further against right-handed pitching. I think Ramon might be able to protect Jones somewhat. I still think Ramon is going to have a big year."

Millar hasn't hit cleanup regularly since he was with the Florida Marlins in 1999. In 148 games there in his career, he has a .264 average with 15 homers and 88 RBIs. Orioles cleanup hitters last year had just 19 home runs, the second-lowest total in the league.

"It's never handed to you ... in this game," Millar said. "I always love competition. I love to battle and to have Dave Trembley behind me and to have confidence in me to say, 'Listen, this is my guy,' that's it. Am I going to hit 40 home runs? No. But I'll give you a tough at-bat every time, and I think that's what we need to have as a group and as a team."

Pitcher for opener?

Trembley said he'll name his Opening Day starter today, an indication he has settled on Jeremy Guthrie, who will face the St. Louis Cardinals today, or Steve Trachsel, who is throwing a simulated game back in Fort Lauderdale. Guthrie appears to be the more likely choice, considering he has had a solid spring, compiling a 3.00 ERA. Trachsel has a 6.92 ERA and has given up 19 hits and four walks in 13 innings this spring.

Trembley isn't any closer to naming a fifth starter, but that might become clearer on Sunday as both Brian Burres and Matt Albers are scheduled to pitch.

"Thankfully, we don't play for a while because I couldn't tell you who would be the fifth starter," Trembley said. " ... I think it will play itself out before we leave here."

Around the horn

Trembley again reiterated that he is proceeding with the idea that Roberts, whose name is heavily involved in trade talks, will be with the club on Opening Day. "I have not been told anything other than that," he said ... Former Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli, who does some broadcasting work with the New York Mets, watched batting practice from the Orioles' dugout last night, chatting with team president Andy MacPhail, Trembley and executive vice president Mike Flanagan. ... Relievers Andy Mitchell and Julio Manon were summoned from minor league camp to give Trembley more depth. ... The Orioles continue to search for a middle infielder, with the Washington Nationals' Felipe Lopez, the Houston Astros' Mark Loretta and the Chicago White Sox's Juan Uribe among those they are following.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Roch Kubatko contributed to this article.

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