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Belle To Bat Fourth For O's

Baltimore Orioles manager Ray Miller walked past Albert Belle on Monday and held up four fingers. No words were necessary.

Miller has decided to bat Belle fourth in the lineup this season, starting with Tuesday's opening intrasquad game.

He had been toying with the idea of batting Belle third, though the temperamental slugger stated his preference last week to remain a cleanup hitter.

The Chicago White Sox switched Belle to third last April and dropped Frank Thomas to fourth, an experiment that didn't last long. Both players were moved back to their usual spots after a few days.

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Miller said Belle never spoke directly to him about where he'd hit.

"When we had our talk after he signed, he said, 'What position do you want me to play?' And I said, 'Third or fourth,' and he laughed," Miller said. "He told me, `I'll play wherever you want and I'll hit wherever you want.'"

"We also had a 30-minute or 40-minute conversation in my office about a week ago and the batting order never came up," Miller said. "I made the decision about the third day down here."

Miller's lineup for Tuesday has Brady Anderson batting first in front of Delino DeShields, who was signed as a free agent in December and expected to handle the leadoff duties. Although the arrangement could change by opening day, Miller made it clear Monday that he would like to keep Anderson at the top of the order if he's healthy and productive.

Anderson was neither last season.

Roberto Alomar replaced him as the leadoff hitter after a strained right shoulder forced Anderson on the disabled list in late April. Anderson also was hindered by an inflamed tendon in his right knee and finished at .236, his lowest average in seven years.

He chose not to have surgery on his knee over the winter.

Also influencing Miller's decision were DeShields' numbers. He's a .249 hitter when leading off over the past five years, compared to .305 when batting second.

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