06/24/12 4:57 PM ET
Hanley offers veteran presence, initiates meeting
First time in career Marlins third baseman has called for such a gathering
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
But the way the Marlins have slumped in June prompted the 28-year-old third baseman to speak out on Saturday.
It was Ramirez who called for a players-only meeting after the Marlins lost, 7-1, to the Blue Jays at Marlins Park.
"We need that," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "Leadership is not in the clubhouse, it's everywhere. I said when I got this job, the main man on this ballclub is Hanley Ramirez. I wish he can be a leader 162 games, every day. That would be nice to see. ... You lead by example."
The loss -- Miami's sixth straight -- dropped the club to 4-16 in June, and into last place in the National League East.
Asked on Sunday morning -- before the Marlins defeated the Jays, 9-0, to end the slide -- who called the meeting, Ramirez replied: "I did."
The seven-year veteran didn't elaborate on specifics of the meeting. But several players aired out their thoughts.
"It's our thing," Ramirez said. "It's for the players. We're going to keep this between ourselves."
Ramirez started the meeting, but there was a lot of involvement. John Buck, Carlos Zambrano and Greg Dobbs were among the veterans who also spoke up.
"I think it definitely showed some leadership and some of the things that needed to be said," said Buck, who called it the best team meeting he'd ever been involved with. "His timing was sincere. There was nothing premeditated about it, or for show. It was perfectly said at a time that we needed to hear it. And it happened and needed to be heard from that person. It was good."
It also was the first time in Ramirez's seven seasons with the Marlins that he's initiated a team meeting.
"I don't like to talk too much," he said. "I joke a little bit, but I don't like to speak. But sometimes you've got something [on your mind] and you want to say it."
Said young outfielder Logan Morrison: "He said he didn't like to do it, but we need it. It's not my job, it's not [Giancarlo] Stanton's job or position. He's our guy. He's got to do it for us. He stepped up and did a good job.
"For [English] being his second language, he's pretty good at it. He was right on with what he was saying, and Dobber cleaned it up. Any time those guys talk, we listen. It was good."
A three time All-Star shortstop in the past, Ramirez is a centerpiece on the Marlins. But like the rest of the team, he's lacked consistency this year. He is batting .258 with 11 home runs and 38 RBIs.
In June, though, he's batting .213 with three home runs and five RBIs.
"I'm still working," Ramirez said. "That's not me. I'm better than that. I'm not going to give up. I know what kind of player I am. I've got to find myself and start producing, every day."
Ramirez certainly isn't the only Miami player struggling. All phases of the team, hitting, pitching and defense have broken down.
"Every team in the big leagues is going to struggle," Ramirez said. "We're going through it right now. Some get out of it quick. Others, it takes a little bit longer. It's been too long for us. The talent we have here, it shouldn't be this long.
"We are trying to do too much. We're putting too much pressure on ourselves. When you're young, you want to do good, instead of going out there, relaxing and playing hard. You want to produce every at-bat, every pitch. You put too much pressure on yourself, your tendons get tight. I think that's what we're going through right now."
Saturday's loss was particularly tough because the team was tied at 1 entering the ninth inning. Josh Johnson pitched a strong game, giving up one run with seven strikeouts in seven innings.
But in the ninth inning, the Blue Jays scored six runs, blowing the game open.
"That's why we had a meeting yesterday," Ramirez said. "We spoke about that."
The team, Ramirez added, has to relax and stay together.
"The past is the past," the veteran third baseman said. "We've got to start today. It's been tough. You can't just keep adding losses to losses every day. Clear your mind and let's start today.
"Everybody is struggling, 25 guys. What do you expect when everybody is struggling? We've just got to battle. Like I say, it's 25 guys, it's not one guy. It's tough when you've got everybody struggling. But sometimes you've got a couple of guys [struggling] and other guys are doing very well. At the same time, we keep playing hard and we don't give up."
Marlins' lefties play it smart, beat the shift
MIAMI -- The little things helped the Marlins come through in a big way Sunday.
Reeling during a six-game skid and struggling to do what they wanted to in June, the Marlins decided to take what their opponent gave them instead. The result: a 9-0 win over the Blue Jays.
"Those are the types of things that winning clubs do," Greg Dobbs said. "They try to take advantage of what the other team is going to give them."
The left-handed Dobbs led off the second facing a heavy shift, with the Jays moving an infielder into shallow right field, leaving the third-base side open. Dobbs made them pay by lining a grounder straight down the line, turning what would normally be a routine groundout into a single.
It was the first of four consecutive hits for the Marlins to open the frame, and it set up a four-run inning that gave them an early lead they wouldn't look back from. Omar Infante followed with a double and Scott Cousins brought Dobbs home with a single. John Buck then hit a towering three-run shot to center field.
The Marlins again took advantage of a Blue Jays shift in the sixth, when Logan Morrison led off with a bunt single down the third-base line. That set up a two-run homer by Dobbs to make it a six-run game.
"If they're going to play the shift on me like that, I'm going to just try to take advantage of it," Morrison said. "If there's not runners in scoring position or runners on base, and it's late in the game, and the score calls for it, I'm going to square around early.
"I'm not worried about hitting a solo home run there. What are the chances of that happening? Just get on base and trust the guy behind you. If you're going to do that, and they give you an opportunity like that, go ahead."
While he said his team has been doing the little things from time to time, manager Ozzie Guillen commended his team for its execution Sunday -- something it lacked during the six-game skid. On Saturday, with the Marlins and Blue Jays tied at 1 and the go-ahead run at second in the form of Infante, Gaby Sanchez moved the runner to third on a grounder for the first out of the inning.
However, the Marlins weren't able to capitalize en route to a 7-1 loss, as Brett Hayes and Dobbs both struck out to end the inning. That wasn't the case in Sunday's series finale.
"We executed," Dobbs said. "If we can continue to do that -- which I don't see why not -- good things are going to happen. But you have to focus on that execution every pitch of every game. You can't take a pitch off, and that's what we did today."
Hanley, Bautista have mutual respect
MIAMI -- This weekend, they are rivals. But during the offseason, Marlins third baseman Hanley Ramirez and Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista regularly worked out together and are close friends.
Interleague Play allows players to catch up with each other on occasion, and Ramirez and Bautista have been doing so at Marlins Park this weekend.
This past offseason, the two trained together in the Dominican Republic. Actually, about seven players, either in the big leagues or Minor Leagues, worked in their group. Wilson Betemit of the Orioles was another regular.
Sometimes Marlins center fielder Emilio Bonifacio took part.
In the mornings, they'd get together on a field, doing baseball activities. Later in the afternoon, they lifted at a gym.
"Hanley is one of the most talented players in the league," Bautista said. "When he's on his game, there are not a lot of guys who can do what he can do. He can hit, hit with power, and at the same time, steal bases.
"He's a player that I've admired for a while. This offseason, we used the same trainer to get back into shape. For me, it was an honor to work out with him to get ready for Spring Training."
Ramirez has great respect for Bautista, and he plans to work out again in the offseason with him.
"Good preparation, that's the key for October," Ramirez said of his offseason workouts.
Being in different leagues makes it harder for them to keep in touch.
Every now and then, they'd send each other text messages.
"Sometimes I bounce ideas when it comes to hitting off him, and he does with me," Bautista said. "You never know when somebody's comment might get you on track quickly. I always wish the best for him."