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Cox tabs Johnson to lead off in opener

Cox tabs Johnson to lead off in opener

PHILADELPHIA -- Without a prototypical leadoff hitter on his roster, Braves manager Bobby Cox may occasionally alter who he places at the top of his lineup.

But while opening the 2009 season against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday night, Cox once again utilized Kelly Johnson, who has spent parts of the past three seasons in the leadoff role.

"It doesn't matter [who you bat leadoff], unless you have Rickey Henderson or Jimmy Rollins on your team," Cox said. "It really doesn't matter who we put up there. The top three guys in our lineup all have high on-base percentages."

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Johnson owns a .356 career on-base percentage, and that mark jumps to .363 when considering the 109 games that he's been utilized in the leadoff spot. In the 28 games he served atop the lineup last year, Johnson hit .263 with a .328 on-base percentage and a .412 slugging percentage.

"I just need to stay aggressive and get in a groove," Johnson said. "No matter where you hit in the lineup, you're trying to accomplish the same thing. You try to get on base to let the guys behind you drive you in, and when there are guys on base you try to drive them in."

Yunel Escobar, who batted second during Sunday night's game, might occasionally be used at the top of the order. The talented shortstop hit .285 with a .358 on-base percentage in 158 at-bats in the first spot last year.

The closest thing the Braves might have to a prototypical leadoff hitter is Jordan Schafer, who batted eighth while making his Major League debut Sunday night. But until Schafer gets his feet wet against big league pitchers, Cox will likely utilize him toward the bottom of the lineup.

2009 Braves Opening Night lineup:
2B Kelly Johnson
SS Yunel Escobar
3B Chipper Jones
C Brian McCann
LF Garret Anderson
RF Jeff Francoeur
1B Casey Kotchman
CF Jordan Schafer
P Derek Lowe

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["opening_day" ] }
{"content":["opening_day" ] }