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Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Hanley Ramirez digs in at third base


Strike One -- Hanley Goes 9

I know the rest of the world sometimes wonders what Hanley Ramirez really thinks of his move to third base. But his actions told me something Wednesday about how sincerely he wants to make this work.

Hanley Ramirez
Hanley Ramirez is making the transition to third base this spring.

Not only did he take a three-hour bus ride (each way) to Port Charlotte for a game against the Rays. But he played all nine innings, making him the only member of his infield who did.

"I've got to play him," said his manager, Ozzie Guillen. "If he rides three hours, I think he'd rather play nine innings than two innings."

Ramirez looked incredibly comfortable at third base and reached base two more times, on a single and a walk. So he's now 7 for 15 (.467) this spring, with two doubles, a homer and a .563 on-base percentage.

"Hanley's been great," Guillen said. "He's been very good."

Strike Two -- Ozzie Speaks

The Marlins didn't just hire Ozzie Guillen to manage. They hired him to sell tickets, make headlines and spend 24 hours a day reminding their not-necessarily-adoring public that the Marlins are still playing baseball at a ballpark near them.

So when Ozzie started waxing on Wednesday about how much excitement his team is suddenly generating this spring, I asked him how much of that excitement he thought had to do with him.

Fasten your seat belts. Here comes the answer:

"Me? [Bleep], I hope not," he said. "I don't play. I lose games. The players win games. The one thing about [him being the manager] is, now the media's got to drive 3½ hours to a [spring training] game now [just in case he says something crazy].

"I don't know why people think I'm [interesting]. If they think we're exciting because of me, we're in deep [trouble]. They should be excited about [Jose] Reyes, [Mark] Buehrle, [Carlos] Zambrano, [Heath] Bell, Hanley playing well. They should be excited about that, not about me. If people are excited about me, we're in last place."

Well, he can think that if he wants. But his team's theory is this: You'll never forget the Marlins are still in business when Ozzie is around. And whether he buys into that or not, it's hard to argue that it's 100 percent true.

Strike Three -- R.I.P. Joe Maddon's Hair

After Thursday, we'll no longer have to worry about whether Rays manager Joe Maddon's hair is long, short, white, brown, blond or bright orange.

In case you missed it, Maddon will shave his head Thursday morning, right there on the field before a Rays-Phillies game, to raise money for children battling cancer.

It's an admirable gesture by a deep, multi-faceted guy. But Maddon has to admit: He's already starting to miss his flowing locks.

"I think," he quipped Wednesday, "I'm going to put them in a little plastic bag so I can look at them fondly every day."

And then, once the nostalgia factor wears off, maybe he can auction the bag on eBay and raise even more money for cancer.