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Manny lifts spirits, inspires fear

Manny lifts spirits, inspires fear

ST. LOUIS -- Dodgers reliever Brian Falkenborg has never faced Manny Ramirez or Albert Pujols. But he's been teammates with both. Having seen what Pujols means to the Cardinals, he's not surprised at what Ramirez has meant so far to the Dodgers.

"It's only been a few days, but Manny is like Pujols in that they not only drive in runs, but they make the guys around them better, because pitchers are so concerned with their spot coming up in the order," said Falkenborg, who pitched for the Cardinals last year.

"So the hitters in front of them might get better pitches because the pitcher doesn't want these guys coming up with the game on the line," he continued. "That's what it means by just having their presence in the lineup. Tony [La Russa, Cardinals manager] always put a good fastball hitter ahead of Albert to get better pitches to hit. Last year, it was Chris Duncan a lot.

"You can already see the same thing happening with us. Russell [Martin, batting third,] is seeing better pitches. And if the guys ahead of him get on, he's not only capable of driving one in, he's a threat to clear the bases."

Tuesday night was disabled pitcher Brad Penny's first chance to see Ramirez in the clubhouse, where recent acquisitions (including third baseman Casey Blake) have lifted spirits.

"Two great players. That's what we needed," said Penny. "From what I understand, the energy makes these potentially the biggest moves to help us win the division. One guy can't win a division, but we've got a legitimate power guy now and he hits for average."

Manager Joe Torre said he has not spoken with Juan Pierre about his published comments concerning playing time. Pierre, though, was on the bench Tuesday for the first time since the Ramirez trade, replaced by Andre Ethier.

"I don't expect people to be happy about not playing," said Torre. "I'd rather have an unhappy player than a happy player sitting on the bench."

Torre said he was looking to get Ethier some at-bats and still intends to give Pierre the bulk of the playing time in center field, with Matt Kemp starting every day in either right or center.

"I can't give a good argument against Ethier," said Torre. "The argument for Juan is the job he did when [Rafael] Furcal went down, the quality of his at-bats, the dimension of speed he gives us. Ethier is more of a power hitter, with a great arm but doesn't possess speed."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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