Consistent Ramirez flying under radar
Cubs third baseman keeping a low profile while producing
Quietly, Aramis Ramirez has proven his value to the Cubs over and over again.
The power-hitting third baseman topped 100 RBIs for the sixth time in eight seasons and established career highs with 44 doubles, a .380 on-base percentage and 74 walks in 2008.
"Every game-winning hit -- it's a joke," Chicago's Ryan Theriot told MLB.com. "This guy is always coming through when you need him. He stays under the radar, and I don't know why he's stayed under the radar. The last six years, he's driven in 100 runs and played great third base and hit a bunch of homers and hit for average."
As it turns out, Ramirez likes to keep a low profile.
"That's perfect, actually," said Ramirez, who finished the regular season with 37 home runs and 121 RBIs. "That's the way I like it to be. I don't like the attention. I just come here and play the game and do my job."
Lowell, Drew take their cuts in hopes of a return: The Boston Red Sox may have two key players back in the lineup for their first game in the ALDS against the Angels. Mike Lowell, who is recovering from a right hip injury, and J.D. Drew, slowed by a lower back strain, looked good during batting practice on Monday at Fenway Park.
Neither player worked out in the field, however. Instead, they waited to do so when the team practiced in Anaheim on Tuesday.
"[Lowell] came out today and actually did pretty well," manager Terry Francona told the Boston Herald. "Hitting is not really the problem -- it's some of the lateral movement, and I don't know if it's starting or stopping."
"J.D. did OK," Francona said of yesterday's session. "He felt good enough to be able to participate in BP, which was a really good sign."
Hamels to rely on playoff experience: Cole Hamels, who is scheduled to pitch Game 1 of the NLDS, believes that he's much better prepared for the 2008 postseason than he was for the 2007 playoffs.
"No. 1, I have playoff experience checked off next to my name," Hamels told MLB.com. "I don't know, for some odd reason, being able to experience something for the very first time, there's a lot of nerves, just because of the unexpected. And so you just have to really go out there and treat it as something that's not as foreign as last year."
Thome just needs one swing for title: Jim Thome has hit 541 career home runs and another 17 in postseason play, so he's had a little experience in that department before launching a game-deciding home run to help the White Sox win their one-game playoff for the AL Central crown.
"There's no better feeling," Thome told the Chicago Tribune. "This is what you live for."
Gallardo gets early jump on role as ace: Despite missing most of the season with a knee injury, Yovani Gallardo was named the Game 1 starter for Milwaukee in its NLDS against Philadelphia.
"I'm going to try my hardest [to stay calm]," Gallardo told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "Of course, there's going to be a lot of excitement going through the ballpark, things like that, so the only thing I can do is limit it. We'll see how it goes."
Manny-mania: In just two months in Los Angeles, Manny Ramirez made a huge impact.
He batted .396 with 17 home runs and 53 RBIs in 53 games with Los Angeles, which was a game under .500 in 109 games without Ramirez and 30-23 with him in the lineup.
"I never thought I was going to come here and have a big impact in L.A.," Ramirez told the Los Angeles Times.
"I used to think that one hitter couldn't make such a profound impact on a team," closer Takashi Saito said. "But watching him, I've changed my opinion. He's changed the way I think about baseball."
Maddux to get postseason relief duty: Greg Maddux, who was acquired in August, made the Dodgers' postseason roster as a reliever. Maddux started the season with the Padres but was acquired after the trade deadline in a waiver deal.
"I'm glad they traded for me," Maddux told the Los Angeles Times. "It's a lot better sitting in Chicago doing a crossword puzzle in the locker room than it is to be sitting in Vegas doing nothing."
Vladimir Guerrero has power surrounding him this time: The Angels hope that having big bats surrounding Vladimir Guerrero in the lineup will help him compile big numbers in the postseason. With Mark Teixeira and Torii Hunter in the lineup, opponents won't find it so easy to avoid Guerrero.
"Vlad was our guy, and we knew he wasn't going to get anything to hit because they're focused on not letting the guys who are supposed to beat you beat you," hitting coach Mickey Hatcher told the Los Angeles Times. "I think the difference this year is we've got a bunch of guys who can beat you, and that's going to help Vlad."
Coffey got the job done in stretch run: Todd Coffey did all he could to help lift the Milwaukee Brewers to the postseason for the first time since 1982, but the reliever will now have to watch the games because he joined the club too late to make postseason roster.
Coffey, who did not allow a run in 7 1/3 innings covering nine appearances, was claimed off waivers from the Reds on Sept. 10. To be eligible for the postseason, a player must be on that team's 40-man roster by Sept. 1.
"He has done an awesome job for us," interim manager Dale Sveum told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "I told [general manager] Doug [Melvin] that's one of the best late-season acquisitions we've ever had."
Moose wins 20 games in perhaps his final season: Mike Mussina notched his 20th win on the final day of his 18th season. It is the first time Mussina has won 20 games and it came in what may have been his final season.
"Having waited to my last year, of all these years in New York," Mussina told Newsday, "and I'm 39 years old, and I've been close and I've been close to other things -- I guess it's worth being close all those times to be able to do it this late in your career."
Mussina hasn't made a final decision about retiring.
"As of right now, it's my last game in my last year, and I don't know what the future holds," he said.
Josh Anderson's power surge proves timely: Josh Anderson, acquired from the Astros in exchange for pitcher Oscar Villareal, spent most of the year in Triple-A, but reached Atlanta in September and hit two home runs to help the Braves win on Saturday.
"I had fun, man," Anderson, who had just one home run in 194 at-bats in the Major Leagues before hitting two Saturday, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Any time a team trades you, you want to make an impression. Obviously, it's fun to prove somebody wrong."
"He's not a power hitter -- we know that," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "But he can run, and he can put the bat on the ball."
Lohse finds comfort in new four-year deal: After posting a 15-6 record and a 3.78 ERA this season, Kyle Lohse has signed a new deal that will keep him in St. Louis for four more seasons. For Lohse, staying where he's comfortable was more important than testing the free-agent waters.
"Peace of mind is worth something to me," Lohse told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "Obviously, if it wasn't working out, I wasn't going to go ahead with something I wasn't comfortable doing. But the way it worked out makes sense for me to do it."
Peralta could be called upon at hot corner: After playing third base at season's end, Jhonny Peralta knows he might be back at the hot corner in 2009. While he'd like to stay at shortstop, Peralta says he will be happy to do whatever the team asks of him.
"I feel fine with whatever decision they make," Peralta told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "I feel better at shortstop. I'm more comfortable there, but if I move to third, I'll do it. It's their decision."
"It felt a little strange at third base Friday -- a little different. The ball gets to you fast at a different angle. They hit two line drives at me that I didn't see too well."
Guillen plans to return in top shape: Jose Guillen plans to take a brief respite then begin a training program in order to return in the best shape possible in 2009.
"I'm going to take a month off and then start working out," Guillen told the Kansas City Star.
He also concedes that the upcoming World Baseball Classic, in which he hopes to play for his native Dominican Republic, is an additional inspiration to make sure he's in top form come the spring.
"I'm excited," he said. "The type of players we have in the Dominican, there's always a pretty good chance that we can win."
Upton has offseason plan in store: Justin Upton ended the season with a flourish, hitting .295 in his 61 September at-bats. Now he hopes to build on that success this offseason and into next year. Upton finished the year with a .259 average to go along with 15 home runs and 42 RBIs.
"I missed 43 games this year because of an injury, so I want to make sure that I'm 100 percent going into next year," Upton told the Arizona Republic. "And there are some little things mechanically that I can work on hitting-wise and in the outfield. I'm going to push to make myself better."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.