JUPITER, Fla. (AP) - Hanley Ramirez is healthy this spring, and the results are showing.
Ramirez hit his second home run and Ricky Nolasco pitched five solid innings Saturday but a Miami Marlins split squad lost to the Minnesota Twins on Saturday, 5-2.
The Marlins trailed 1-0 when Ramirez connected off Carl Pavano for a long two-run homer to left-center with two outs in the fifth.
``I feel great. It's way different (than last year). Everybody knows I wasn't 100 percent,' said Ramirez, who hit .342 in 2009 to win the National League batting title.
Ramirez, who also drew two walks, is batting .474 this spring after slumping to .243 in last season. He played in just 92 games last year because of injuries and he had surgery in September on his left shoulder.
``He had a rough year last year, but everybody knows how good he is,' Nolasco said. ``He showed he was one of the best players in the league for five years.
``Every player is going to have a down year and it was just because he was hurt. Nobody is worried about it,' Nolasco added. ``He'll be fine. Obviously encouraging signs from him so far.'
Ramirez, a three-time All Star shortstop, is playing third base this year to make room for new Marlins shortstop Jose Reyes.
``Every day I am getting more comfortable,' Ramirez said of the new position.
Nolasco allowed a run on five hits in five innings. He walked three and struck out three. Danny Valencia hit a solo homer off Nolasco with two outs in the first.
Nolasco allowed lead off walks in each of the first three innings and a gave up a base hit to open the fifth.
``I don't want to walk the lead off guy in three innings in a row,' said Nolasco, the Marlins' No. 3 starter, ``but it was good to battle out there, to have guys on base and work out of the stretch. That's where you make your biggest pitches. It was good to be able to work on that now in spring training.'
Nolasco threw 73 pitches, 46 for strikes.
``The main thing is the arm is getting better every time out,' he said. ``I'm able to let some go here and there. I kind of feel nice and loose.'
The Twins scored three times in the ninth. Leading off, left fielder Ben Revere reached on a bunt single after beating pitcher Elih Villanueva to first base.
He stole second, advanced to third on a groundout and scored on Brian Dozier's single to break the tie.
The Marlins had a scoreless drought of 18 innings before Ramirez's home run off Pavano.
``The first pitch I threw him, I kind of had a feeling that he was looking for something in to drive because of the way he pulled off that ball and got under it,' Pavano said. ``It looked like he was trying to elevate something so I thought if I could stay away with either a fastball or something soft then I could get him out front. I had some success with my fastball today so I stayed with it and eventually it beat me. That was really the only pitch that was working for me today.'
Pavano left after Ramirez's homer. He allowed two runs and five hits in 4 2-3 innings.
``I did get a lot of groundballs but I had a tough time putting guys away and making pitches with two strikes,' Pavano said. ``Fortunately I got some good plays behind me like Ryan Doumit in right and Danny (Valencia) made some great plays down the line.'
NOTE: Marlins reliever Randy Choate, out with a strained lateral muscle on his right side, said he felt great Saturday after a bullpen session. He hopes to make his Grapefruit League debut next weekend.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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