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08/19/08 10:15 PM ET
Rockies face tall task of solving Manny
NL West-rival Dodgers featuring new slugger this series
By Mike Scarr / MLB.com
LOS ANGELES -- Clint Hurdle is not in awe, but he can appreciate a good hitter, and for the next three games his club will have the task of figuring out Manny Ramirez. In the batter's box, at least, as Ramirez now occupies the middle of the Dodgers' batting order and has taken a lineup from average to potent. He's been in the National League for 16 games, but Ramirez has already made an impact on a Dodgers club that was three games back of the D-backs but is now tied atop the division. "You pay attention," Hurdle said. "You see the guys that hit." Ramirez is not a total stranger to the Rockies, who played at Fenway Park last season and took two of three games from the Red Sox in Interleague Play before seeing Ramirez a second time in the World Series as the Rockies were swept. Hurdle said he's read a few stories on the impact Ramirez has had on ticket sales and the local market and is intrigued to see him in his new park. But from a practical standpoint, Hurdle sees a lineup that is tougher to get through than was before. "You're talking about finding a way to protect a lineup or enhance a lineup, there's an anchor," Hurdle said. "There's a cleanup hitter right in the middle of your lineup. He adds a dimension that they didn't have before him. They had a cleanup hitter and had a pretty good one, but this fortifies it." Ramirez entered the series with the Rockies hitting .429 with six homers and 21 RBIs during his first stint in the NL. Last season, he went 3-for-9 against the Rockies in the regular season and 4-for-16 in the World Series. Hurdle said what Ramirez has in common with the game's top hitters is the high-hand finish in his swing that produces power to all fields coupled with an ability to hit good pitching. "He keeps the barrel through the zone a very long time from back to front. That is why you see the high-hand finish," Hurdle said. "More often than not, good hitters, they get through the zone, they stay in the zone a long time, they finish high and they're facing the dead middle of the field."
Mike Scarr is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.