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News » NATIONAL LEAGUE 2009-04-24


NATIONAL LEAGUE 2009-04-24


NATIONAL LEAGUE 2009-04-24
A week into the season, the question was how soon Manny Ramirez would stop walking so much and get some good pitches to hit.

Then the question turned to when the slugger would hit his first home run.

Now, with Ramirez hitting .345 and having slammed four homers -- including two in consecutive games against the Astros this week -- it would seem Manny at the plate is finally, well, back to being Manny.

Not so, said Ramirez. "I'm still trying to find myself" and be "more consistent," he said before Thursday's game with the Astros.

Ramirez, who is batting .458 with eight runs batted in over the last six games, said he feels fine physically and that his timing in the batter's box is about right, but that he hasn't hit his stride.

"I'm getting some good pitches and driving the ball a little more," said Ramirez, who is 17th on the all-time home-run list with 531.

None of this surprises hitting coach Don Mattingly.

"He's always pretty good but he's not locked in like we've seen him before," which is normal for this early in the season, Mattingly said.

But Mattingly said he's delighted that Ramirez is getting hotter at the plate because now the Dodgers' offense is strong throughout their lineup. Cleanup hitter Andre Ethier was hitting .321 with five home runs going into Thursday's game and Matt Kemp was hitting .364 in the seventh spot.

"It's going to take a full lineup to win games," Mattingly said. "We have to put pressure on [pitchers] all the time. The guy out there needs to know he's got his hands full."

Pitching relief?

The Dodgers are uneasy about the ability of their bullpen to the point where Jeff Weaver -- currently throwing at triple-A Albuquerque -- is on their radar, Dodgers Manager Joe Torre said.

"He's been coming up in conversation," Torre said of Weaver, 32, who is scheduled to start for Albuquerque on Saturday. If Weaver did join the big-league club, the right-hander could be used for relief or "if we need somebody to fill in for a starter," Torre said.

The Dodgers are struggling to get solid relief pitching ahead of their closer Jonathan Broxton. Right-hander Cory Wade is on the disabled list with shoulder problems and left-hander Hong-Chih Kuo has struggled in his recent outings.

On Wednesday night, Torre hoped rookie Ronald Belisario could hold a 5-4 lead over the Astros going into the eighth inning, but the Astros scored two runs to win, 6-5.

"You'd be more comfortable if you had Cory Wade back here and Kuo pitching like he pitched for us last year," Torre said. "Once we get whole, I think the people we have down there [in the bullpen] can do the job. My situation now is we have to get comfortable getting to Broxton."

On the plus side, Wade threw about 20 pitches in practice Thursday and could rejoin the Dodgers either when they start a three-game series in San Francisco on Monday or when they return home April 30, Torre said.

Short hops

After impressing the Dodgers in spring training, Xavier Paul is hitting .460 for Albuquerque, tops in the Pacific Coast League. . . . Michael D'Antonio is scheduled to sign copies of his new book "Forever Blue," about legendary Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley, Saturday and Sunday at The Times' Festival of Books at UCLA.

--

james.peltz@latimes.com


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 24, 2009

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