LOS ANGELES -- Manny Ramirez, singles hitter?
It hasn't quite come to that. On the other hand, Dodgers manager Joe Torre has been saying since the offseason that Ramirez might not hit as many home runs as he has in the past, but can still be a productive hitter. And that pretty much fits the current scouting report.
He's batting .357, which would be the highest batting average of his life if it stayed that way the entire season. But his .529 slugging percentage is lower than all but one of his full seasons in the Major Leagues. He has two home runs in 70 at-bats, or one every 35 at-bats. Last year, when he hit only 19 in a season shortened by a 50-game suspension, he still averaged one homer every 22 at-bats.
"He's hitting the ball hard. Just not in the air," said Torre. "His production is what we want. All I care about are RBIs from him."
Ramirez has 19 RBIs, or one every 3.68 at-bats. That's well ahead of his career pace of one every 4.44 at-bats. Ramirez's bulk numbers are down because he missed 14 games while on the disabled list with a strained calf muscle.
"He wouldn't be hitting .360 if he was trying to hit home runs," said Torre. "There's not any question he can win a batting title. He's capable of winning one."
Ramirez won an American League batting title in 2002 with a .349 average and has finished in the top five four other seasons.