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MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

Dodgers' Hanley Ramirez returns to Miami, where things went south

He and his new team will face the Marlins, for whom he was a batting champion before getting into clashes and suffering injuries.

August 09, 2012|By Dylan Hernandez

Hanley Ramirez looked up.

"You want to talk about Miami?" he asked.

Ramirez shook his head.

"I've got nothing," he said.

But as much as Ramirez wants to put his controversial past behind him, the schedule won't allow it. Ramirez spoke on Wednesday, two days before the Dodgers open a 10-game trip in Miami, the city Ramirez called home for 61/2 seasons.

Miami was where Ramirez transformed himself from prospect to superstar. Acquired in a deal before the 2006 season that sent Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to the Boston Red Sox, Ramirez became a three-time All-Star with the Marlins and won a batting title.

Miami was also where Ramirez was accused of not always hustling. He clashed with then-manager Fredi Gonzalez and publicly feuded with former Marlin Jeff Conine, who now works in the team's front office. Slowed by injuries, his production dipped in recent seasons.

Three weeks ago, the Marlins decided to terminate their relationship with the player who was long considered the face of their troubled franchise, sending him to the Dodgers.

In his first return to Marlins Park as a visitor, Ramirez said he had no idea how he would be received by the fans.

"I don't know," he said. "Seriously, I don't know."

He paused.

"There are a lot of things I have to thank the Marlins for," he said. "They gave me the opportunity to play in the big leagues, you know? That's six or seven years."

Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly was certain Ramirez would be emotional in his return to Marlins Park. "He just came from there," Mattingly said. "He spent spring training with those guys."

Mattingly made no prediction about how Ramirez would be received. "He'll be OK," he said. "He's not the first guy that's had to go through it."

The visit will be a homecoming for Ramirez in more ways than one. His wife and children still live in Miami. He hasn't seen them since he was traded to the Dodgers.

"I can't wait," he said. "They're waiting for me."

As reluctant as Ramirez was to talk about his former team, he spoke enthusiastically about trying to recapture the swing the made him a batting champion at age 25.

He talked about the time he has spent with Dodgers coach Manny Mota studying video. Extraneous movements at the plate, he said, disrupted his rhythm.

"I was late to the ball," he said. "Now, it's different. I'm relaxing and timing the pitcher. Even when the pitcher was like 85 [mph], I was seeing it like 100."

His theory is that he developed bad habits as a result of his injuries. In addition to a shoulder injury that required surgery late last season, he developed lower back problems. He finished the 2011 season with a career-worst .243 average.

"This time of the year, it's not easy to get 100% that way," he said. "It's going to take a little bit."

In the 14 games he has played for the Dodgers, Ramirez has hit .226 with a home run and 12 runs batted in. He has already created a couple of magical moments, hitting a game-winning, 10th-inning home run in San Francisco and driving in a walk-off run against the Chicago Cubs at Dodger Stadium.

Overall, Ramirez is batting .244 with 15 home runs and 60 RBIs.

Mattingly said he still views Ramirez as a five-tool player.

Ramirez batted .342 when he won the batting title in 2009. He led the league with 125 runs scored in 2008. He has driven in as many as 106 runs. He stole 51 bases in each of his first two seasons with the Marlins.

"We think that kind of production's there," Mattingly said. "Maybe not 50 bags and maybe not .350."

Mattingly has compared Ramirez to Matt Kemp on more than one occasion, saying he believes he can be the type of player who hits .300 with 30 home runs and 100 runs batted in.

"They're similar-type players," Mattingly said. "He's capable of some of those things. With Hanley, we're going to try to put him in the position and environment that he can get the work that he needs, help him any way we can. I expect him to be that guy. He has a chance to be that guy."

Also ...

Bobby Abreu has accepted an assignment to triple-A Albuquerque, according to his agent.

Abreu, 38, was designated for assignment last week to clear a roster spot for newly acquired outfielder Shane Victorino. Abreu, who was released by the Angels in April, batted .251 with two home runs and 17 RBIs in 70 games with the Dodgers.

Abreu cleared waivers and had the choice of playing in Albuquerque or becoming a free agent. He could be back with the Dodgers when rosters expand next month but would first have to be added to their 40-man roster.

In Albuquerque, Abreu will play alongside Tony Gwynn Jr., who accepted an assignment to triple A on Wednesday.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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