Morris gets the start as Brewers play ball

The A’s called asking to employ a designated hitter for Saturday’s Cactus League opener at Maryvale Baseball Park and the Brewers happily agreed, using the extra spot to get their first looks at first base prospect Hunter Morris.

Morris, No. 5 on MLB.com’s list of the top 20 Brewers prospects, is a candidate to fill first base while Corey Hart works back from knee surgery. The question is whether the 24-year-old is ready to hit in the Majors or needs more Minor League at-bats.

“You have both [views],” manager Ron Roenicke said. “That’s why we need to see him.”

Hart had right knee surgery Jan. 25 and is aiming to be back with the Brewers before the end of April, but the more conservative estimate has him out until late May. Besides Morris, who would have to be added to the 40-man roster, the Brewers are looking at Taylor Green, Alex Gonzalez and Bobby Crosby to fill-in. Green started at first base on Saturday and Gonzalez, who has played exclusively at shortstop over 15 Major League seasons, could make his first start at first in one of Monday’s split-squad games. <p>

The rest of the Brewers’ lineup Saturday looked like a preview for Opening Day:

1. Norichika Aoki RF
2. Rickie Weeks 2B
3, Ryan Braun LF
4. Aramis Ramirez 3B
5. Jonathan Lucroy C
6. Carlos Gomez CF
7. Taylor Green 1B
8. Jean Segura SS
9. Hunter Morris DH

Lucroy looks like the leading contender to hit fifth while Hart is sidelined. Lucroy led baseball in batting with runners in scoring position before breaking his right land last May, hitting .514 (18-for-35) in the clutch including .600 (12-for-20) with runners in scoring position and two outs.

“I know there’s still areas he’d like to improve on, and I think he will,” Roenicke said. “He really could be one of the top offensive producers, especially at his position.”

Roenicke was ready for the start of exhibition games.

“I look forward to it because when we start games, we’re getting closer to the end,” he said. “Spring Training games for a manager, it’s nice that we get to see the young guys. That’s probably the part I like the most. You really don’t manage in Spring Training; it’s more, ‘Who am I going to put in after this guy comes out?’ … That isn’t enjoyable. But seeing the young guys, that’s what I like in Spring Training.”

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