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Baseball Notes

Ramirez may be the right man at the right time

By Nick Cafardo
August 29, 2010

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Do you want Manny Ramirez saving the day for your team?

Once upon a time, yes. He did it for the Red Sox. He did it for the Dodgers. Now the White Sox, perhaps the most unorthodox team in baseball, feel that Ramirez can make them a playoff team. The White Sox want Ramirez, especially now that the Twins, the team they are chasing in the American League Central, keep improving, acquiring a pair of lefthanded relievers last week in Randy Flores and Brian Fuentes.

The Dodgers have to gauge whether they’re going to be in the wild-card chase by Tuesday afternoon, the deadline to keep Ramirez or let him go to Chicago, which, as was widely reported, was awarded the waiver claim on the outfielder.

It’s possible Ramirez could be in Boston with the White Sox Friday.

During a three-game series against the Dodgers last week, Brewers manager Ken Macha said, “They look like they’ve got it together and they could put together a good run. Manny can still hit. He’s probably not the same guy he was last year or throughout his career, but he can help you win.’’

Ramirez’s no-trade provision in his contract does apply to waivers. The Dodgers cannot just assign the remainder of Ramirez’s salary to the White Sox without his permission. The feeling around baseball was he would grant approval of the trade for a number of reasons: His star has faded in LA, he wants to be a DH in the future, and the White Sox might consider a new deal for Ramirez next season if he performs well.

These are certainly issues agent Scott Boras will discuss with Ramirez before the decision is made. Both sides have the benefit of extra time, since the weekend does not count against the 48-hour window teams have to make a deal after a player is claimed off waivers.

The White Sox have used Andruw Jones, former Red Sox Mark Kotsay, and utilityman Mark Teahen at DH this season. Jones started well, but has slowed considerably in the second half, so Ramirez would be a major upgrade in a lineup that features Paul Konerko, Carlos Quentin, and Alex Rios.

Ramirez has been limited to 64 games and 195 at-bats this season, but he’s hitting .313 with eight homers and 40 RBIs, with an on-base percentage of .407 and an impressive OPS of .920.

“The problems he’s had with his legs have probably limited his ability to hit for power,’’ said one American League scout, “but the fact is, his bat speed is still very good and he can drive the ball enough into the gaps. So he’s a force still. You can’t look at Manny Ramirez and say, ‘Oh yeah, easy out.’ He’s not an easy out and if you think that way he’ll make you pay.’’

White Sox general manager Ken Williams claimed Rios off waivers from Toronto last August and assumed an enormous contract for which he was widely criticized, but it’s turned out to be a good move. Williams also brought in Ken Griffey Jr. a couple of years ago and Jim Thome before that, so he isn’t afraid to acquire big names who may be a little past their prime.

The White Sox also feel comfortable with Ozzie Guillen managing Ramirez. Guillen has always been a huge fan of Ramirez’s ability as a hitter, and handling him for a month shouldn’t be a problem.

It was interesting that Dodgers manager Joe Torre sat Ramirez against Colorado righthander Ubaldo Jimenez Friday night, saying “he hasn’t been back long enough and I don’t think he is sharp enough to face Jimenez.’’ Ramirez, who also sat out Thursday’s game against Milwaukee, was 1 for 13 with six strikeouts against Jimenez.

Obviously, the Dodgers don’t think Ramirez is fully healthy and don’t want to play him much in the outfield — Ramirez again sat last night, with Torre saying the Coors left field is too big for him to cover right now — but those drawbacks would lessen in the AL. The Dodgers could also be protecting Ramirez to avoid him getting hurt before a deal is consummated.

Some wonder if Ramirez is worth the trouble, even if only for a month. His past foibles have been well-chronicled, but during the Red Sox-Dodgers series in June, Ramirez opened up to “NESN Daily’’ host Uri Berenguer and told him he’d become born again and spends his days reading the Bible. He also said how sorry he was for the problems he caused in Boston, and indicated how much he loved playing and that he wanted to extend his career next season as a DH.

Ramirez is no stranger to pennant races and the postseason. He was the MVP of the 2004 World Series and he was red-hot for the Dodgers in the 2008 playoffs.

Ramirez saving the day again? Can’t wait for Tuesday to find out.

HAPPY TO BE HERE

Baker close-minded on potential openings

There might be an impending free agent frenzy for managers with so many potential openings, but Dusty Baker hopes he doesn’t have to take part.

“I was out there a few years back working for ESPN and there were seven openings and I didn’t get one of them,’’ said Baker, whose Reds are in first place in the National League Central. “I love it right where I am and we’re in the middle of trying to work something out to stay. I love the organization, love working with Walt [Jocketty, the general manager], I love my team. I feel like we’ve built this team together, and it’s been a challenge at times, but it’s paying off for us.’’

Baker is at the end of his deal with the Reds, but if he wants to stay, there should be no problem. If he doesn’t, he’d likely have a lot of teams interested.

“I really don’t even want to think about that, because all that matters right now is what our team is accomplishing and what we need to accomplish the rest of the way,’’ Baker said. “This city deserves a winner. There’s a great tradition of baseball here and we want to be the ones that continue it and get it back to where it used to be.’’

Baker lauded the work of former Red Sox righthander Bronson Arroyo, saying, “The level of consistency with Bronson is unbelievable. You can expect seven innings and a performance where your team has a chance to win every time he goes out there. The fact he’s never missed a start, that’s amazing in itself. You don’t see that with major league pitchers anymore.’’

Baker on MVP and Triple Crown candidate Joey Votto: “This was coming last year. He was having a great year last year and unfortunately he went through some depression issues with the death of his dad, which he took very hard. But he’s such a well-prepared kid, so disciplined.’’

Baker’s lone concern?

“Some of our pitchers are entering uncharted waters,’’ he said. “Some of these young kids, like [Mike] Leake [currently on the 15-day disabled list with a tired arm] and [Travis] Wood, have never pitched past August. So we’re going to have to keep an eye on it. It’s been a rewarding season with what we’ve been able to do to this point, but we’ve got a long way to go here to get where we want to be.’’

MISTAKE BY THE LAKE

Nothing can stop Indians from sinking

One should feel sorry for Indians executives Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti, and manager Manny Acta (left), because the next few years aren’t going to be pleasant, trying to rebuild a team from scratch. The futility of this team is at an all-time high.

Back in the mid-’80s, a segment of my baseball column was called, “Cleveland Indians Comedy Corner.’’ The Indians were so bad back then there was plenty of material. But they started to get better, and then got really good. Unfortunately, the Indians are closer to those teams of the ’80s than the excellent ones of the ’90s.

The Indians have scored two or fewer runs in a third of their games. They’re 3-41 when they score two or fewer, and 4-57 when they’re outhit.

They’re 3-6 against Oakland, and have been outscored, 39-2, in the losses.

Before beating the A’s, 3-2, Thursday night, they’d been outscored, 30-4, during a five-game losing streak.

Since Aug. 5, Indians starters were 1-14, before Justin Masterson won Thursday.

Speaking of Masterson, since coming from Boston in the Victor Martinez deal, he’s 6-19 in 36 starts (hint: He may not be a starter). The Red Sox tried to get him back at the trade deadline, with the plan to reinsert him in a setup role. Before Thursday’s win, he was 2-7 with a 5.84 ERA in his last 13 starts, 1-5 with a 6.22 ERA in his last nine.

Are there good players on the way? Not so much. Outfielder Shin-Soo Choo is the Indians’ best player, and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera is very good, but beyond that there isn’t a lot.

They have the lowest attendance since Progressive Field opened in 1994, and have committed the most errors in the majors. Starting catcher Lou Marson was batting .188 heading into the weekend.

Amazingly, Andy Marte is still on the team. Marte, a .216 career hitter in six seasons, is at .217, and had nine errors at third base in his first 23 games.

OK, that’s enough.

Etc.

Apropos of nothing
1. The Red Sox really miss trainer Paul Lessard, who is now with the Reds; 2. Amazing that the Sox have scored 5.1 runs per game, second to the Yankees in the majors. Goes to show you that even with all of their injuries, if they had pitched like they were supposed to, they’d be neck and neck with Tampa Bay and New York; 3. Sorry, Adrian Beltre shouldn’t be “goofing around’’ with the opposing pitcher in a game he called “important’’; 4. How do you test positive for PEDs now, Ronny Paulino?; 5. Agree or disagree with him, but commissioner Bud Selig was deserving of a statue in Milwaukee.

Updates on nine
1. Victor Martinez, C, Red Sox — As the Sox decide what Martinez is (catcher, first baseman, or designated hitter) and what to pay him, consider this: He will have a market. The Tigers may be an excellent fit, because they need a catcher and a hitter for the middle of their order. The fact he’s a switch-hitter is even better. The Tigers plan a major overhaul this offseason and hope to acquire a shortstop, catcher, run-producing corner outfielder, and starting pitcher. Martinez would also fit well in that clubhouse. So the Sox can’t let this go too long. There have been preliminary conversations, but nothing of substance.

2. Los Angeles Angels — They’ve made the fewest deals since 2000 in major league baseball (11, tied with Toronto), a sign of how much they’ve depended on their farm system. Also in the bottom five: Detroit (12), Tampa Bay (13), and Minnesota (14). The most? San Diego is No. 1 with 36 deals, followed by Pittsburgh (32), Boston (28), the Yankees (27), the Dodgers (26), and the Cubs (25).

3. Takashi Saito, RHP, Braves — The reliever had terrible vision problems when he was with the Red Sox, so much so that Jason Varitek would have to tape his fingers so Saito could see the signs. Even then it was somewhat of an adventure. On Thursday, Saito and catcher Brian McCann got crossed up, and it resulted in a passed ball. The funny thing is McCann had vision problems at the start of the year, so you wonder who couldn’t see.

4. Miguel Tejada, SS, Padres — While Tejada has been a decent addition, one opposing manager indicated he can be pitched to at this stage of his career. “He can hit mistakes, and believe me there are plenty of those, but for the most part you can pitch to him and get him out,’’ said one National League scout. “He’s not what he used to be, but they seem to like the energy he brings to that team.’’

5. Joe Girardi, manager, Yankees — One way or another he’s going to come out of this with a big contract. The Yankees have their reasons for not extending Girardi, but if they wait until the end of the season, Girardi could stay in New York or go to Chicago, where he went to college (Northwestern), played for the Cubs, and where his ailing father still lives. Major league sources say Girardi would be the Cubs’ top choice.

6. Ken Macha, manager, Brewers — It would not be surprising to see Macha let go after the season, and that would be a shame because for the last two years he’s had horrible pitching staffs, and you can’t manage without pitching. Owner Mark Attanasio may want to clean house. His payroll could see a $47 million reduction with players at the end of their contracts. He must devote that to gobbling up the best pitching available. They will be huge players for Cliff Lee, and should be in on Bronson Arroyo as well if the Reds don't pick up his option. Prince Fielder will continue to be trade bait, though the Brewers were underwhelmed by what they were offered at the trade deadline.

7. Magglio Ordonez, OF, Tigers — At 37 and coming off a broken ankle, the former slugger, who hit .318 and 102 homers in six seasons for the Tigers, will likely try to latch on next season as a DH. He could still play the outfield and obviously can still hit for average. It doesn’t appear the Tigers will bring him back, but that’s not out of the realm of possibility either. The Tigers are considering bringing back Johnny Damon as their DH.

8. Dellin Betances, RHP, Yankees — Scouts are ga-ga over Betances, a 6-foot-8-inch, 245-pound righthanded starter whom the Yankees have moved up to Double A Trenton. Betances is 16 months removed from Tommy John surgery, but you wouldn’t know it. “He could move fast now that he’s healthy,’’ said one NL scout of the hard thrower. “The Yankees have some good young arms coming. With Hector Noesi, D.J. Mitchell, and Ivan Nova between Double A and Triple A, they’ve got some reinforcements on the way.’’

9. Ramon Ramirez, RHP, Giants — The ex-Red Sox reliever made 11 consecutive appearances without an earned run (though not completely clean ones), before allowing two runs Wednesday, and for the most part the Giants are pleased with their acquisition. The Sox felt all along that Ramirez would be successful with a change of scenery in the NL, and they appear to be right.

Short hops
From the Bill Chuck Files: “Miguel Tejada led the majors with 29 double-play grounders last season after hitting into 32 in 2008. Jim Rice holds the record, hitting into 36 in 1984 and then setting the record for most in two seasons when he hit into 35 in 1985. Billy Butler is this year’s challenger to Rice with 26 in 106 opportunities.’’ Also, “Ryan Howard had held the record for the most strikeouts over a three-year period with 579 (181 in 2006 and 199 in 2007 and 2008), but Mark Reynolds has just surpassed him with a record 204 in 2008, 223 in 2009, and 172 this season for a total thus far of 599.’’ . . . Didn’t get to mention it last weekend, but condolences to the family of Satch Davidson, a longtime umpire who was behind the plate for Hank Aaron’s record-setting 715th homer and Carlton Fisk’s winning homer in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. Davidson died Aug. 21 at the age of 75 . . . Happy 31st birthday, Ryan Shealy.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.

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