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Ramirez working to get BayStars ready for Climax Series

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Staff Writer

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Yokohama BayStars manager Alex Ramirez is wearing two hats as the regular season winds down.

One one hand, Ramirez is trying to guide the BayStars to wins in their final two games of the season to keep alive their hopes of overtaking the Yomiuri Giants for second place in the Central League. On the other, the first-year manager is assessing his players’ readiness for the upcoming CL Climax Series, which will be the first postseason appearance for many of them.

“The Climax Series of course is a totally different game,” Ramirez said Friday. “It’s a different feeling for the games. Some of our players have never been in that kind of environment. The Giants have always been in the Climax. For me to say, ‘this is what we’re going to try to do’ is a little bit hard at this point.

“We just gotta let the guys go out there and do the best they can. There’s not too much we can say about that.”

Ramirez already has players he knows can deliver such as Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, who leads Japan with 43 home runs, and Jose Lopez, who has 32, among others.

What he’s doing from now until Oct. 8, when the postseason begins, is looking for players who can provide depth.

Jamie Romak might be one of those guys. Romak’s first year in Japan didn’t get off to a great start, and Friday was his first day back on the top team since mid-June. Ramirez said the outfielder had been playing really well in the minors recently.

“I always say it’s not how you start but how you finish,” Ramirez said. “He had a rough time down in the minor leagues, but this month he’s hitting pretty well.

“I’m thinking about using him (in the regular season) and seeing how things go and things like that. I just want to be able to see him at this level. Hopefully he can play well enough that I can consider him for the Climax.”

From finish to start: Right-hander Hirotoshi Masui began the season as the closer for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters and had recorded 10 saves for the team through June.

He was taken off the roster on June 20, and when returned Aug. 4, it was as a starter, not a closer.

Masui has thrived in the new role. He lost his first decision as a starter but has earned wins in each of his last six outings. Since the change, Masui is 6-1 with a 1.10 ERA in 57⅓ innings over eight starts.

Double trouble: Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks shortstop Kenta Imamiya is never going to be mistaken for a slugger, but the 171-cm, 73-kg player does have a double-digit homer season under his belt now.

Imamiya went deep in the third inning of the Hawks’ win over the Seibu Lions on Friday night, giving the fifth-year star, known more for his glove, double-digit homers in a season for the first time.

“It was luck,” he told reporters afterward. “My body just reacted well.”

Better to give: Yomiuri Giants captain, and current Central League batting leader, Hayato Sakamoto gave a young fan a thrill on Friday at Tokyo Dome.

Sakamoto was heading in after his batting practice as a group of fanclub members, who were allowed on the field to watch practice, took pictures as he walked by.

After gathering his bats, which were sitting nearby, Sakamoto reached out and handed one to a kid,drawing a smile from the stunned supporter.

Sakamoto might’ve benefitted from a little good karma later, as he connected on the 150th home run of his career, in his very first at-bat that night.