Braun back for Brewers, dropped to 5th in order


Associated press

Ryan Braun has returned the Brewers starting lineup and lower down in the batting order.

Braun, who has been bothered by a bad back, was slotted into the fifth spot for Thursday afternoon's game against the Philadelphia Phillies after sitting out the previous two contests.

It was the first time that Braun hit fifth in the starting lineup since Sept. 14, 2008. He had been hitting second lately after starting the season batting third.

But manager Ron Roenicke said it was a matter of creating consistency at the top of the lineup. Braun also has missed games with an injured thumb and a sore oblique this season.

Braun is hitting .291 with 11 homers and a team-high 49 RBIs in 69 games.

"Part of it is making sure he's out there every day," Roenicke said. "When he's in the second spot or you move him back to the third spot and he's not out there every day, then I'm always having to change the lineup."

Roenicke said he wanted to get Braun healthy to the point where "we can count on him." For now, Carlos Gomez will continue to lead off, either Scooter Gennett or Rickie Weeks will bat second, Jonathan Lucroy third and Aramis Ramirez cleanup.

"I know those guys are going to play every day," Roenicke said. "When (Braun) gets back to where I feel like he's going to play every day and I can count on nine innings and not have to ask him every morning if he can do it today, then we'll look at moving him back."

Braun returned this season after being suspended for the final 50 games of the 2013 season in the Biogenesis doping scandal. He's made a relatively smooth transition to a new position, going from left to right field.

Roenicke said hoped to decide Friday on whether struggling right-handed starter Marco Estrada would make his scheduled start Saturday against the St. Louis Cardinals.

"We're in discussions all the time about what to do and how to improve," Roenicke said. "Not just with other people, but internally with the people we have."

The right-hander is 7-6 with a 4.96 ERA and a league-leading 27 homers allowed. Top pitching prospect Jimmy Nelson is 10-2 with a 1.46 ERA at Triple-A Nashville with 114 strikeouts and 32 walks in 111 innings.

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