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Ozzie prefers Big Z hitting 9th

       KISSIMMEE -- Now that he's moved to the National League, Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen can actually give thought to experimenting a bit more with his lineup. One option that might be worth exploring: batting Carlos Zambrano somewhere other than the nine hole. Tony La Russa used to do it all the time with his pitchers when he managed the Cardinals and had Albert Pujols in the lineup. Jack McKeon tried it a few times toward the end of the 2005 season with Dontrelle Willis, installing him in both the 7th and 8th slots.

     While Guillen hasn't ruled out that possibility, he prefers keeping Big Z -- one of the top hitting pitchers in the majors -- in the bottom spot.

      "I'm not going to say I'm not going to do it," Guillen said. "But I would have to figure out a reason to do it." Bigz

     And, at the moment, Guillen said he can't think of a good reason, even though Zambrano has the hitting credentials to make it something worth considering. Zambrano's career .241 average is identical to John Buck's career average. Zambrano has won three Silver Slugger awards as the league's top hitting pitcher. His 23 home runs put him in a tie for 9th (with Walter Johnson) on the all-time list of most home runs by a pitcher (Wes Ferrell sits atop the list with 38). Even though Zambrano had a mediocre season on the mound last year for the Cubs, he enjoyed his best season at the plate, hitting .318 with an OPS of .848.

      Nonetheless, Guillen said he prefers Zambrano in the 9 hole.

      "I don't think any pitcher is better than a (position player)," Guillen said. "I just worry about, make sure you pitch, that's why you get paid."

      Guillen could use Zambrano off the bench as an early-innings pinch-hitter, though the pitcher's career numbers in that department (3 for 29 for an .094 average) are much less impressive than his overall numbers.


      Today's Lineups:

      Marlins: 1. Emilio Bonifacio, cf; 2. Omar Infante, 2b; 3. Gaby Sanchez, 1b; 4. John Buck, c; 5. Bryan Petersen, rf; 6. Chris Coghlan, lf; 7. Donovan Solano, ss; 8. Donnie Murphy, 3b; 9. Carlos Zambrano, p.

      Astros: 1. Brian Bogusevic, cf; 2. Jed Lowrie, ss; 3. J.D. Martinez, lf; 4. Carlos Lee, 1b; 5. Travis Buck, rf; 6. Chris Johnson, 3b; 7. Chris Snyder, c; 8. Jose Altuve, 2b; 9. Lucas Harrell, p.