Notes: Bottom of the order flexibility
Yost evaluating options to get Braun, Fielder more at-bats
PHOENIX -- Brewers manager Ned Yost cautioned the room not to "go crazy with it," but he revealed Saturday the potential of an extremely interesting starting lineup.
It's certainly not set in stone, but Yost is considering batting catcher Jason Kendall ninth, behind the pitcher's spot. If that's the way Yost does it, leadoff man Rickie Weeks would be followed by two-hole hitter Ryan Braun, then Prince Fielder in the third spot. Last season, Braun mostly batted third and Fielder hit fourth.
The idea is to get Braun and Fielder as many plate appearances throughout the season as possible, while still maximizing their RBI potential.
"I'm not ruling it out," Yost said. "But there's other things that have to play into this, and to make a big deal or a big story out of this, it's not yet. We're still in the thinking process, and trying to figure it all out, put it all together, and just take your time. When you have time, the best thing to do is take it, think through it. You don't have to make a rush decision right now."
According to the Brewers' numbers, their No. 2 hitters compiled 745 plate appearances last season, compared to 730 for the No. 3 hitter and 706 for the No. 4 spot.
"So the difference between the No. 2 hitter and the No. 4 hitter is almost 40 [plate appearances] over the course of the year," Yost said. "A little common sense tells me, don't you want your best hitters having the most at-bats?
"Take from that premise on and start to think through it. ... You still want guys on in front of 'Braunie,' so you take a great on-base percentage guy, a guy that works the count like Jason Kendall, and hit him ninth. It's almost like putting 'Braunie' back to third, in a lot of instances, but he's getting the 40 extra at-bats. We're thinking through a bunch of different stuff."
Yost is gathering input from a number of different sources, including GM Doug Melvin and assistant GM Gord Ash, the club's scouting officials, coaches and young stats gurus, who Yost dubbed, "the whiz kids." He also has received input from Dave Lawson, who for years has provided deep statistical analyses for Melvin.
"I ask a lot of opinions," Yost said. "We talk to our stat people and our sabermetric people to try to put things together. They can say, 'If you hit this guy, then this guy, then this guy, you're score 15 more runs over the course of a year.' I try to take it all in and see what fits, what feels right."
Yost may try some unique lineups in Spring Training games. He's willing to go against the traditional ways to set a lineup -- fastest runner first, contact guy second, best hitter third, best power hitter fourth, RBI guy fifth -- if it means maximizing the team's offense.
The Brewers are certainly not the first team to use unconventional lineups. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa batted his pitcher eighth extensively last season. Still, baseball sometimes can be slow to embrace change.
"But, you know, every once in a while they find a cure for polio," Yost quipped. "You have to think a little bit."
Nothing to it: Royals officials spent some time this week shooting down a rumor that Kansas City wanted to move to the National League and Milwaukee wanted to move back to the American League. On Saturday, it was Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio's turn.
"First I've heard of that," Attanasio said. "Things are going pretty well right now for us. ... Our fans like the rivalries we have with the Cubs and the Cardinals. People like the matchups.
"Also, I think the way you construct a team, from a baseball standpoint, for the American League is very different. We have been building this team for years now, and to all of a sudden switch gears ... There's always a different Internet rumor."
The Seattle Pilots debuted as an AL franchise in 1969 and then moved to Milwaukee in 1970 and became the Brewers. The team moved to the NL in 1998, a natural move since the city's former Major League franchise, the Braves, played in the NL before moving to Atlanta in 1966.
All for it: La Russa on Saturday chimed in about Fielder cutting meat out of his diet. La Russa said he adopted a vegetarian diet toward the end of his playing career.
"I think long-term, personally and professionally, it's a smart way to go," La Russa said. "There isn't anything you can't get in terms of vitamins and stuff like that. You've just got to be smart about it."
Is it difficult to play 162 games on a vegetarian food supply?
"Not at all," he said. "Just got to be smart with the things that you eat. You'll get all you need. ... All you've got to do is understand it. There are a lot of creative meals that are very tasty."
Return to sender: Jeff Suppan received a nice piece of mail this week from a fan who was led on a guided tour of Miller Park last season. It included a friendly letter, a self-addressed, stamped envelope and two glossy 8x10 photos, one for Suppan to sign and return, and one to keep.
Only one problem. That guy in the photo, the one with a wide grin, enjoying an ice cream popsicle? That's not Suppan.
Instead, it was video coordinator Joe Crawford, the former big league left-hander who said he often is mistaken as Suppan by fans around the country. Suppan said he planned to have Crawford sign and return the photo, and would include an autograph of his own, too.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.