Washington set on 2008 lineup
Blalock to bat cleanup; Bradley to fill fifth spot
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers manager Ron Washington has an Opening Day lineup ready for Mariners pitcher Erik Bedard on Monday, and it includes Hank Blalock batting cleanup.The lineup that Washington plans on using looks like this: 1. 2B Ian Kinsler
2. SS Michael Young
3. CF Josh Hamilton
4. 3B Hank Blalock
5. DH Milton Bradley
6. LF David Murphy
7. RF Marlon Byrd
8. C Gerald Laird
9. 1B Ben Broussard Washington originally wanted Bradley batting cleanup and Blalock in the fifth spot. But Washington has decided to switch them until Bradley fully regains his batting stroke after his long convalescence following right knee surgery. Washington also likes the way Blalock has finished strong this spring. Blalock is leaving Arizona with a .377 average after hitting a two-run home run in Thursday's game against the Royals. "I had to put him there and he's doing good," Washington said before Thursday's game. "Milton's still got to get his timing down, but I still feel he's good enough to go out there and give you a good at-bat. We'll know his timing is good when balls start flying all over the park." That may not be far away. Bradley had a single and a monster two-run home run in Thursday's game with the Royals. Bradley, who underwent knee surgery on Sept. 27, also played five innings in right field. The Rangers still expect him to be the designated hitter on Opening Day, but he may not be far away from being able to play the field again during the regular season. Kinsler, Young and Hamilton form the top of the order. Blalock and Bradley will be followed by Murphy in left and Byrd in right. Murphy is starting because Washington believes he's more comfortable against a left-hander like Bedard. Frank Catalanotto will be on the bench, but will still see time against right-handed pitching. "He's not going to get buried," Washington said. "We need his bat. We need his professionalism. We've got five outfielders. Cat is important." Washington has decided to bat Broussard ninth even though he has just 32 career at-bats in that position. Byrd and Laird are right-handed hitters and Washington wanted a left-handed hitter between them and Kinsler and Young at the top of the order. "He's not there because he's the worst hitter," Washington said. "He's there to break up the right-handed hitters so we can do some damage at the bottom of the order."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.