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Crew's new OF to lead lineup on Opening Day

Braun set to start at first base in opener against left-handed starter
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

PHOENIX -- After winning the Cactus League, the Brewers will try to win some games that matter.

With six weeks of spring preparation in the books, manager Craig Counsell's club is entering a season of expectations with some notable reinforcements. Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich should fortify the lineup and the defense, and Jhoulys Chacin is the lone newcomer to a starting rotation that many observers expected general manager David Stearns to do more to fortify.

PHOENIX -- After winning the Cactus League, the Brewers will try to win some games that matter.

With six weeks of spring preparation in the books, manager Craig Counsell's club is entering a season of expectations with some notable reinforcements. Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich should fortify the lineup and the defense, and Jhoulys Chacin is the lone newcomer to a starting rotation that many observers expected general manager David Stearns to do more to fortify.

The club did not get through Spring Training without some notable injuries. Catcher Stephen Vogt (right shoulder) and reliever Boone Logan (left triceps) will open on the disabled list with ace right-hander Jimmy Nelson, whose rehab from shoulder surgery continues. The Brewers also lost non-roster left-hander Wade Miley to a groin injury while he was on his way to cementing a spot in the starting rotation.

Still, Counsell deemed camp a success.

"I think we're leaving in a good spot," he said. "We anticipate having injuries, you know? You have to anticipate having injuries, so you prepare for them. That's part of depth.

"Catcher sits on its own island a little bit, but we're healthy on the position-player side. That's going to take us into the regular season with a really deep position-player group. We're going to have a lot of good choices every day."

• Brewers not celebrating Cactus League crown

Video: Counsell on Suter and Woodruff making 25-man roster

Projected Opening Day lineup

1. Lorenzo Cain, CF
2. Christian Yelich, LF
3. Ryan Braun, 1B
4. Travis Shaw, 3B
5. Domingo Santana, RF
6. Manny Pina, C
7. Jonathan Villar, 2B
8. Orlando Arcia, SS
9. Chase Anderson, RHP

Key roles

• Cain and Yelich figure to hit atop the order, though they could flip-flop depending on the opponent. Their bat-to-ball skills made them enticing to the Brewers, who set Major League Baseball's all-time strikeout records each of the past two years. Yelich's natural power should play much better at cozy Miller Park than it did in Miami.

"Shaw said, 'You'll see,'" said Yelich. "That's where they leave it at. It's not a bad hitters' park, that's for sure."

Video: MIL@OAK: Yelich homers, knocks in four runs vs. A's

Corey Knebel set strikeout records and made the National League All-Star team after the Brewers installed him as the closer last season, but he might not be the team's best reliever. That distinction might wind up going to Josh Hader, who didn't allow a single run during the Arizona portion of Spring Training while striking out 16 batters vs. two walks. Counsell will have to decide how best to deploy his lefty weapon.

"The question is always going to be with Josh, 'Six outs and days off, or back-to-back and three outs?'" Counsell said. "That's the question that we're going to have to answer. Sometimes the game will tell you what the answer to the question is."

Video: Counsell discusses Hader's role out of the bullpen

• Braun gets the nod on Opening Day because the Brewers face Padres left-hander Clayton Richard, but Braun's precise role remains an open question. If he plays first against left-handers, it still leaves a majority of games for Counsell to juggle Braun, Cain, Santana and Yelich in the outfield. The Brewers put it in the category of "good problem to have."

Video: CWS@MIL: Braun fields a grounder at first base

Injury Updates

• Nelson will join the team in San Diego before heading home to Milwaukee to continue his throwing program. If he continues to progress, Nelson could get back on a mound sometime in the middle of April, at which point the Brewers would have a much clearer timetable for his return to the rotation. Besides the timing, the question is whether Nelson will be able to return to his stellar 2017 form following major shoulder surgery.

• Vogt and Logan project for early-May returns to big league action. Both are potentially important pieces because they are left-handed, Vogt a hitter and Logan a reliever. Logan in particular was a notable offseason addition because his presence could free Hader to pitch wherever Counsell deems best in the game.

• Miley, who worked out a deal to stay with the Brewers on his Minor League contract, should beat Vogt and Logan back. Miley will rehab in Phoenix until he can make rehab starts, at which time he can elect free agency if the Brewers don't have a spot for him in the big leagues. Losing Miley was a blow to the starting rotation, where the club eschewed the big free agents and will try to win instead with depth.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

Milwaukee Brewers, Lorenzo Cain, Jhoulys Chacin, Christian Yelich