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Crew balances rest with playing for home field

September 25, 2011

MILWAUKEE — Over the final days of the regular season, it is going to be a delicate balance for Brewers manager Ron Roenicke between trying to win and preparing for the playoffs.

In Milwaukee’s first game after clinching the National League Central, right fielder Corey Hart and second baseman Rickie Weeks got the night off, though Hart entered as a pinch-hitter and delivered the go-ahead double late in Saturday’s win over the Marlins.

For Sunday’s series finale, Roenicke had center fielder Nyjer Morgan, catcher Jonathan Lucroy and third baseman Casey McGehee out of the lineup. In their places, Roenicke started Mark Kotsay, George Kottaras and Jerry Hairston Jr.

“It’s really a difficult thing to try to do both,” Roenicke said. “You’ve got four games left and we know we need to win them. And yet, I know we need to be right when we start the playoffs. I’m trying to figure it out, trying to get some guys some at-bats that we’re going to need in the playoffs.”

Another player that is a candidate for a day off is first baseman Prince Fielder, who has played in all 159 games this season for the Brewers.

Fielder would be the first player in Brewers history to play 162 games in two different seasons. He also did it in 2009. The only other Brewers to play 162 games are Carlos Lee (2005), Richie Sexson (2003), Robin Yount (1988) and Gorman Thomas (1980).

Fielder and Roenicke have talked about getting the slugger out of the lineup at some point, but it seems more likely Fielder will just come out of a game or two early this week.

Roenicke did just that with Fielder on Sunday, taking him out after the sixth inning. Ryan Braun came out after the fifth as Milwaukee held a comfortable lead over Florida.

“He still would like to play them all,” Roenicke said. “I told him, ‘Listen, physically, if you think it’s a huge benefit to take the day off, then take it.’ He says, ‘Ron, I’m not tired.’ And he’s not; he’s not playing tired. So we’ll see how that goes. I may get him out of there early in one of these games, just let him get an at-bat and get him out.”

Lucroy should get another night off Tuesday, as Kottaras will likely catch again with lefty Randy Wolf on the mound. With their magic number for clinching the No. 2 seed at four, the earliest the Brewers could wrap up their current race is Monday, with two wins and two D-backs losses.

If that were the case, it would certainly make Roenicke’s job easier for the final two games.

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