Russell talks rotation, lineup


INDIANAPOLIS — Some highlights from manager John Russell’s confab with the media a short while ago:

· Zach Duke, Paul Maholm and Ross Ohlendorf are locks for the starting rotation. It would require some sort of near-catastrophic event for Charlie Morton to be out of the No. 4 spot. That leaves Kevin Hart and Daniel McCutchen — and possibly Brad Lincoln — to battle for the final job during spring training. “I think it’s going to solidify itself pretty quickly,” Russell said. “Saying that, I don’t know if someone will put a stranglehold on it all year. They’ve got to pitch and maintain, because now we have options.”

· For those of you puzzling over the lineup, Andrew McCutchen will stay at leadoff, even with Akinori Iwamura around. “I know Aki’s got speed and (good) on-base percentage,” Russell said. “McCutchen’s got some power traits that make him a little more attractive, maybe, moving him down. But he did a pretty good job in the leadoff spot. I’m not ruling out that he could hit third at some point, but this kid’s only spent three months in the big leagues. We’ll let him get his feet wet for a little bit longer before we start making some bold moves.”

· Garrett Jones might bat third. “What hurt him was when (cleanup hitter Ryan) Doumit was struggling, he didn’t really have anybody hitting behind him so he got pitched around a lot. That affected him a little bit,” Russell said. “This year, we have a little more luxury with our lineup. Garrett has the ability to hit third. In an ideal world, I think he’d be pretty good in the five or six hole, but that’s yet to be seen. Pedro (Alvarez) gets here at some point, (Jose) Tabata gets here at some point … we’ve got (Jeff) Clement, Jones in the lineup, McCutchen, Aki … it’s starting to look pretty potent.”

· What are Russell’s expectations, as far as wins and losses? He didn’t toss out any specific predictions. “We’re not satisfied with last year. We need to win more games. The mass exodus is over; we’ve not going to move a lot of people. We have the group of guys we’re going to move forward with, and we expect these guys to win more games.”

· Jeff Clement won’t be handed the first base starting job in spring training, but … “We’d like for him to come in and put a stranglehold on that position or at least be in a very strong platoon role (with Jones). I think he’s got a great chance to make that happen.”