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Phillies have a plan for Manny

October 08, 2008|Stephen Miller | Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.)

PHILADELPHIA -- The public has the wrong perception, Phillies reliever J.C. Romero insisted. Manny Ramirez is not all about Manny.

Ramirez would rather come to the park, belt a few baseballs into the seats and return home than draw attention from the media. He just happened to spend 7 1/2 seasons in baseball-crazed Boston, where each day people wanted a piece of him.

"He doesn't like to do that," said Romero, who spent the first part of 2007 as Ramirez's teammate on the Red Sox. "But Manny's the type of guy, he likes to be with his family. He was born to play the game of baseball. He was born to hit."

Happy again since Boston dealt him to Los Angeles in late July, Manny has mashed the baseball since donning Dodger blue. Keeping him in check will be priority No. 1 when the Phillies pitch to the Dodgers' lineup during the National League Championship Series, which opens Thursday at Citizens Bank Park.

The Phillies made it clear before their Tuesday workout that Manny alone would not decide the NLCS. The return of shortstop Rafael Furcal, who missed all eight regular-season games between the teams, has added depth to the Dodgers' lineup. Their young hitters, including Russell Martin, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp, could all cause problems during a seven-game series.

Ramirez simply resides on another plane. He may be the best right-handed hitter of his generation, having won a batting title, a home run title and an RBI title while amassing a .314 career average and 527 regular-season home runs. A postseason regular with the Cleveland Indians and the Red Sox, he has belted 26 homers and driven in 67 runs in 98 career postseason games.

The Phillies are well aware of what Ramirez has done and could do. They will have a plan for holding him down.

"There's a book on Manny Ramirez, just like there is for anybody else," catcher Chris Coste said. "It's just that he's more likely to hit a mistake than the next guy. If our pitchers can pitch to the game plan, I don't see any reason to walk him.

"I think if you picked out the guy we don't want to have beat us, yeah, he's clearly the guy."

As good as Ramirez was during the regular season -- he hit .332 with 37 home runs and 121 RBIs between Boston and the Dodgers -- the Phillies contained him. He hit .212 with a .333 slugging percentage, two extra-base hits and five RBIs in 10 games against them.

How much success the Phillies have against him in the NLCS could well depend on the timing of his at-bats. Should he come up with no one on base, the Phillies can attack him in a different way than they would if he were hitting with the bases loaded.

"You can't fall into one pattern with him," reliever Ryan Madson said. "You've got to change it up constantly with him, just keep it fresh and keep it new and just go after him."

Romero has been an integral part of a relief corps that has shut down plenty of good hitters this year while finishing the regular season with the best bullpen ERA in the NL. He also has seen up close what a hot and happy Ramirez can do to a pitching staff.

So, J.C., what can everyone expect in the NLCS?

"Unhappy Manny is dangerous. Happy Manny is even more dangerous," Romero said. "We're going to find a way to limit the damage when it comes down to Manny hitting with men on base and stuff like that. We're going to find a way.

"It's going to be very interesting."

--

stephen.miller@mcall.com

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