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Dodgers hoping Hanley Ramirez's return can pay big dividends

By Scott Miller | Senior Baseball Columnist

LOS ANGELES -- It's been so long since Hanley Ramirez was fully healthy, it's easy to forget what an impact player he once was.

Don Mattingly sure hasn't as he continues to attempt to steer the Dodgers toward higher ground.

Ramirez stepped off of the disabled list straight into the cleanup spot in the Dodgers' order Tuesday night against the Padres as the manager dreamed of a club picking itself up off of the mat.

“Every night Hanley plays, he's got a chance to be the best guy on the field,” Mattingly said. “Hanley's really good. He has a great swing and a good feel for the game.”

He once led the National League in runs scored … back in 2008, with 125.

He once led the NL in batting … back in 2009, at .342.

He cracked 24 homers and had 92 RBI last year, but he hasn't produced a batting average higher than .300 in two years or an on-base percentage above .400 since '09.

Shoulder surgery dented his swing, and he opened this year on the disabled list with a thumb injury, then returned there two weeks ago with a hamstring strain.

Overall, Ramirez had played in only four games for the Dodgers this year entering Tuesday night's contest, but he was 5 for 11 (.455) with one homer, one RBI and a .500 OBP.

Tough to say if Ramirez rejoining the Dodgers is the start of something big or the continuation of another slow fizzle, but no question Mattingly's crew is energized this week with the inspirational debut of Yasiel Puig and, now, the addition of Ramirez.

“It's unbelievable, for me,” Mattingly said of how Ramirez can change a lineup that has scored the third-fewest runs in the NL. “It's another Adrian [Gonzalez] type in the lineup. Hopefully, he brings that kind of consistency.

“Adrian is a guy a lot of times we take for granted because he's in there every day, day in and day out, he does his thing.

“We need to get a couple of other guys going like that. If we can get Hanley going, and get Matt [Kemp] back, then we start to be formidable.”

The Dodgers started play Tuesday in last place in the NL West, but working to their advantage is the fact that nobody in the division is opening things up. Even in last, the Dodgers are only 7½ games behind the Diamondbacks.

The way Gonzalez figures it, if they can get their full lineup back reasonably soon, they're only a couple of runs away from getting right back in the race.

If the Dodgers can win five or six in a row sometime soon, Gonzalez theorizes, then go through their normal paces, and then put together another five- or six-game winning streak, they'll be right back in the race.

No easy thing, at all. And certainly, these Dodgers have not shown the ability to go on one of those runs yet, let alone a couple.

But given Puig's promise and Ramirez's return, and figuring Zack Greinke can only get better and Clayton Kershaw is still Clayton Kershaw, who knows. Stranger things have happened.

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