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Branyan's spot in lineup may shift

Branyan's spot in lineup may shift

NEW YORK -- Russell Branyan returned to the Mariners' starting lineup on Tuesday night against the Yankees, batting third.

Manager Don Wakamatsu said he decided to put the team's new homers leader between Chone Figgins and Milton Bradley after a chat he had with the left-handed-hitting first baseman.

"We talked about where he'd hit this year in Cleveland, and he said he's hit anywhere from fourth to sixth," Wakamatsu said of Branyan, who entered Tuesday with 10 home runs. "I think the biggest thing with him is being able to see what impact he has on the other guys around him, whether it's [Jose] Lopez, or [Franklin] Gutierrez or even Bradley, if he takes pressure off those guys and backs everybody up.

"We'll see after today's game -- and as we go forward -- if that's a good fit, or we move him somewhere else. Right now, I feel pretty comfortable with the third spot."

The move shows just how different the Mariners' lineup is this season compared to last. Branyan, who led the Mariners with a career-best 31 home runs in 2009, was used sparingly in the No. 3 spot, going 1-for-6.

Branyan was especially productive batting fifth (.305, 13 homers, 26 RBIs) and sixth (.390, three, eight). He hit 14 of his home runs while batting second.

Most of Branyan's at-bats with the Indians this season came batting fourth (36), fifth (51) and sixth (71).

Branyan is expected to get most of the playing time at first base going forward, "playing six of seven games until the All-Star break, and then re-evaluate and maybe play eight of nine," Wakamatsu said with a smile.

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