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Jonathan Villar gets first day off as Brandon Hyde continues search for ideal Orioles lineup

For the 47th time in 47 games, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde deployed a lineup he had not used before.

Baltimore’s first-year headman has yet to repeat his starting nine this season, making him the only manager in baseball who has yet to use a lineup multiple times. It’s a trend that continued Monday when he rested middle infielder Jonathan Villar for the first time and inserted Hanser Alberto into the leadoff spot for the opener of a four-game series with the New York Yankees.

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Since raising his batting average to .275 in a May 1 doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox, Villar is hitting .196 in 14 games with 20 strikeouts to three walks.

It's halfway to the All-Star break, and the Orioles have several players who are showing that they could help a contender at the July trade deadline.

“Just wanted to give him a breather,” Hyde said. “I don’t think he’s taking the at-bats that he would like, and I kinda wanted to just give him a blow.”

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Alberto was Hyde’s choice in the leadoff spot against New York’s J.A. Happ because of his success with left-handed pitching, posting a .385 batting average. Hyde also noted that Alberto, who has walked only twice this season, will provide energy at the top of the lineup.

“You know he’s gonna swing, and he’s gonna be aggressive,” Hyde said. “I just like way he’s been swinging the bat against left-handers, so threw him out there.”

Alberto’s insertion in the leadoff spot is an interesting wrinkle to Hyde’s spring training claim that his best four hitters will occupy the top four spots of his lineup. Although Villar, Dwight Smith Jr. and Trey Mancini have recently had claim on three of those spaces, the fourth has seen a shuffle, with Chris Davis, Renato Núñez and Rio Ruiz all filling in of late.

The backend, of course, has seen its share of change, too, leading to the lack of replication.

“I think I’d like to be a little more consistent on how we do that, but it’s kind of where we’re at, too,” Hyde said. “It’s not like we have a ton of veteran at-bats.

“You try to find the right time to rest guys or to bump guys down or bump guys up in the lineup, but you do your best to try to get the guys that you think have the best opportunity against that starter the most at-bats, and in our situation, sometimes, it’s challenging, but we’re doing the best we can.”

Stewart, the Orioles' first-round pick in 2015, entered Sunday batting .487/.521/1.077 with five home runs and six doubles in 12 games.

Karns moved to 60-day IL; Lucas rejoins O’s

With an opening on the 25-man roster and a need in the bullpen, the Orioles selected the contract of right-hander Josh Lucas from Triple-A Norfolk before Monday’s game. To create an opening on the 40-man roster, right-hander Nate Karns, still battling right forearm soreness, was transferred to the 60-day injured list.

Karns was unlikely to return in the 60 days following his original April 9 placement on the IL, so the move was mostly procedural. Lucas was designated for assignment April 22 but went unclaimed on waivers. He posted a 4.15 ERA in three relief appearances for the Orioles.

“Happy to be back,” Lucas said. “I like it here. I enjoy everything around here, enjoy the guys, enjoy the whole atmosphere of the rebuild and everything like that, so just go with the flow.”

Karns has maintained a positive attitude even as he goes through another injury-hampered season, with his rehabilitation starting and stopping.

"It's one of those things where you just have to stay even-keel,” Karns said. “You can't get too down on yourself because at the end of the day, you've shown you can get back there. It's just, unfortunately, it's been kind of an up-and-down road so far.”

Around the horn

Mark Trumbo (knee) is progressing toward playing the field at extended spring training and should begin a rehab assignment “pretty soon,” Hyde said. … Ryan Mountcastle’s work as a first baseman is “coming along,” Hyde said. … Double-A Bowie left-hander Zac Lowther was named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Week.

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